Tips for Younger Leaders (that apply to leaders of any age)

Posted 02.03.2010

Lately, I’ve been working on a second edition of my book, The Next Level, to be released this Fall. It will still focus on what you need to pick up and let go of as you move into or up in executive leadership. The new edition will include situation-specific coaching tips, additional perspective from global business executives and advice targeted toward younger professionals who are in significant leadership roles. I’ve been conducting a lot of great interviews with leaders lately and had a particularly fun lunch with one of the younger ones last week, Frances Reimers, the communications and program manager for Sister Cities International.

Francesreimers In her Linked In profile, Frances describes herself as Dynamic Connector of People and Ideas. That is what you call truth in advertising. She is a woman who comes up with new ideas and makes them happen. As an example, check out this article from the Washington Post on her nonprofit, the Greater Washington Clothing Swap. I first met Frances last year when she was a manager at the ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership and I was a speaker there. She told me then that she had read my book and found a lot in it that applies to young professionals. I wanted to hear more so we had lunch last week to talk about it.

She had a lot of great observations and advice for young professionals moving into leadership positions.  I wanted to get some of them to you sooner rather than later, so here are a few of her tips. (By the way, I think these apply to leaders in any age cohort. Wisdom for all ages. Thank you Frances!)

Emotional intelligence is key.  As Frances told me, “You might think you’re awesome, but if everyone else thinks you’re obnoxious, that’s a problem.”

Practice two way communications.  Know what to say and what to leave up to the other person to ask.  Build those skills early in your leadership career.

Build your conflict resolution skills.  Frances points out that e-mail and texting technology has allowed a lot of people to avoid dealing with tough issues on a face to face basis. Conflict needs to be resolved through talking, not texting.

Look for mentors.  Frances says, “A lot of young professionals think a mentor is just going to land in their laps. It rarely happens that way.  You have mentors all around you. Look for role models and observe what they’re doing.”

Volunteer for leadership.  Seize whatever comes your way. Fill leadership roles outside of your 9 to 5 job. As Frances notes, “It expands your organization’s reputation when you’re out there involved in the community and it makes you feel great.”

Manage up.  Frances speaks the truth when she says, “You’re not going to get an awesome manager in every job. Sometimes you’re going to get managers who absolutely stink and don’t deserve to be there.”  Her advice for when you do? Step back and observe what motivates them and how they want to be communicated with. You have to adapt to them. If that doesn’t work, you have to know when to leave.

Embrace failure.  Everybody fails from time to time. Frances has this advice for when you do. “When you accept it, she says, you get over it much faster. People don’t judge you when you fail. They judge you on how fast you get up and back into the race.”

Which of the leadership tips from Frances hit home with you? What would you add to the list?  Are there other key things that younger leaders need to keep in mind? Anything that applies solely to younger leaders?