In our previous post, we discussed some of the major challenges to young leaders that were external in nature. The primary barriers pertain to three core areas: knowledge, support, and interaction. A young leader needs to have knowledge of one’s own abilities, what works as a leader, and operational knowledge of the area supervised. Any leader, but especially young leaders need to have the support of those above them. Issues with employees, peers, and other functional areas typically benefit from higher level management support. As new leaders consolidate their position, some employees might choose to “test” the new leader. Strong support from senior managers can make a big difference in the ease of transition. The dynamic of interaction changes with a new leader. As influence and information is redistributed in the work unit, people need support and look to the new leader.
So, what can a young leader do?
Learn all that you can
Before and after you become a leader, it is important to continuously learn new things. Articles, associations, presentation, and peers all provide valuable resources. Creating a skill inventory, needs analysis, as well as learning plan is very helpful steps to improving a leader’s success.
Determine what you have and take the best action
The first thirty to ninety days as a leader is a critical time to assess what resources and capabilities are present in the work unit. Even if there is a lack of necessary resources, knowing what is available and how will perform allows the new leader to develop a plan than maximizes what is available. Create a list of what the work unit needs to accomplish, what resources are available, and how they might best be aligned.
Put forward a positive image
In a time of transition, employees need certainty and stability. A young leader that has all the answers alienates those that work for him or her, while a leader that listens but makes decisions is thought of as being confident. What employees think of you impacts their confidence, trust, and support for the young leader. A strong image can overcome many of the prejudices that relate to a new or young boss. What are the positives that most employees look for? The major ones are the same ones that we look for in any leader: looks and acts the part, possesses empathy, listens, acts in the best interest of the team, holds to a consistent vision, and leads by example.