When I was 11, I wanted to start a babysitting club, like many bored pre-teens in the ’90s. I rallied a group of friends and, after a few weeks, enlisted seven girls. I worked with my dad to make business cards and, needless to say, was pretty proud. It was not until a potential “client”—rather, a fellow neighborhood dad—laughed off our club and my role as CEO.
“Aren’t you girls a little young?” he asked. “Who is really running your club?”
I was crushed. What did my age have to do with being an effective leader? Take today’s modern leaders: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was only 23 years old when he became the youngest-ever self-made billionaire; at 17, education activist Malala Yousafzai was named the youngest Nobel Laureate.
What steps can you take, in business or in life, to ensure you are taken seriously as a young leader?
Small steps can make a big difference. So, if you are looking for incremental ways to improve your performance as a young leader, consider these three tips.
Be Willing to Accept Advice
Your age is not a direct reflection of your experience level. That said, your more seasoned colleagues will be impressed with your enthusiasm and will respect your willingness to learn through constructive criticism.
What should you do next? If you do not already have a weekly, monthly, or quarterly meeting with your manager on the calendar, ask for one. Your desire to improve your performance and grow within the organization will go a long way toward impressing your team and, perhaps, inspire an upcoming promotion.
Become the Expert of Your Industry
Knowing your industry inside and out puts you on the fast track to being your team’s go-to resource for all industry trends and new technology. Remember, knowledge is power.
What should you do next? Attend every free seminar, webinar, conference, or networking event you can. If you are based in Boston, there is a networking event near-daily. Invite your colleagues to attend—it will show you are willing to work with them to grow your business knowledge outside of the office. As Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said, “The upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance.”
Do Not Be Afraid to Showcase Your Confidence
A good and willing leader should have conviction in his or her actions. Have you ever met a successful leader that lacked confidence? Most likely not. Young leaders should value their ability to bring a fresh perspective to the table—and not be afraid to share it.
What should you do next? Is there a project at work you are passionate about? A developmental team you would like to get off the ground? Speak up! Do not simply say “yes” to anything and everything—people-pleasers are often viewed as “suck-ups” or, worse, fail to stand up for what they believe in. Rather than telling your team what a great leader you could be, show them; build a team of your own or volunteer to take the lead on a project.
Your age has nothing to do with your leadership abilities.
Image via TechCrunch/C Flanigan/WireImage (CC BY 2.0)