Having joined my family’s business, Interlink Communication, at age 23 and quickly risen from general manager to managing director of its companies, I well understand the challenges today’s young leaders face. Here are four such challenges, and what I learned to overcome them.
Challenge 1: The Culture
Every organization has its own culture, one forged over time by the behavior, decisions and interaction of its leaders and workers. This internal culture can be either a significant asset or a huge liability.
When I have needed to introduce change within an organization, I first tried to understand the pros and cons of its underlying culture. This helped me plan any transitions and helps to reduce the culture shock as well as push back on any changes. Thinking strategically this way is a tool to encourage those affected by your changes to be more comfortable with what is changing.
Challenge 2: The Ego
Young leaders who have succeeded quickly sometimes forget that they do not know everything about every situation or know better than everyone else.
Having that attitude, however, can sidetrack your professional journey. We in senior management need and appreciate young leaders who can float fresh ideas, raise concerns and critique strategies. Be humble and teachable in these interactions; it will make things easier as well as provide a great path for your professional growth.
Challenge 3: The Promises
Since they are early in their careers, young leaders need to determine and consider any long-term outcomes of their decisions and actions.
It is crucial that any commitment you state to customers or shareholders is sustainable. One failed deliverable can affect your entire career and also erode any trust in your ability to lead.
Challenge 4: Yourself
While it might be easier for leaders at all levels of experience to challenge others, flipping the point of view on such critiques can be an important leadership exercise of reflection. Effective leaders keep an open mind, even when the mirror is held up by those who confront them, tell them no, and tell them things they don’t want to hear — but need to hear.
At the top leadership level especially, such candor can be difficult to achieve. One solution is for you to create an open environment that encourages feedback and solutions to any concerns or issues raised. These open discussions reinforce your humility and develop your teachable spirit.
If you understand the culture, check your ego in interactions, make good on your commitments and remain open to the insights of others, there will be no limit on your growth and success as a leader.