Young leaders live with tension. We have the pulse of the community around us, but sometimes lack the wisdom of life experience. We can see with fresh eyes the unhealthy patterns in an organization, but sometimes we focus on change that’s not the highest priority. We can have a vision for hope for the future, but that can come across as a slam to the success of the past.
It’s not easy being labeled a young leader. As I look back at the opportunities afforded to me, I have many instances that I would label “handle that differently.”
Perhaps you have felt the same way. God has placed you in a role in the marketplace, church, or school. The people around you see your desire to lead and change a community for the better. On one hand, people love your insight and ingenuity; on the other hand, you may feel that people have put you in the box stamped young.
Last week, I was sitting with my mentor, Mike. We were discussing the tensions of young leadership. He gave me four practical tips in that conversation that I thought would be important to share with you:
1. Ask good questions
One of the frustrations people have of young leaders is that they have an answer for everything. Many of us have a lot to say, but the question is, are people ready for it? When we begin by asking good questions, it helps us create a bridge of understanding. It can also lead to better responding to the feedback that we desire to give. Asking good questions slows us down and communicates that we want to listen. Wait to talk.
2. Wait to talk.
Have you been in a meeting when the same person responds first to every question? That can be off-putting and the constant talking can render a voice ignored. I confess that at times I have failed here. Why should we wait? Because it gives other people a chance to respond. Another person might give the same insight, which would allow you the opportunity to agree with them. Instead of speaking, take a moment to write your thoughts down. And be patient.
3. Compliment specifically.
In talking with older leaders, I often hear how they feel young leaders critique more than affirm. One way to lose influence is to be the person that points out more problems than solutions. When something goes well, compliment specifically with an email, text, or note pointing it out. It tells people you are listening, watching, and observing.
4. Say YES as much as you can.
Many leadership books talk about the importance of saying “NO” to things that don’t fit the vision of the organization. At times, we need to narrow our focus. As young leaders, a “YES” can be an opportunity to build a bridge. A lot of times when we say “NO” it has less to do with vision and more to do with convenience. That’s not always a bad thing, but if you become the person who constantly says “NO” then people might stop asking you. Look at ways you can support the people around you. That’s what saying “YES” can do.
Whether you’re a young leader or not, I hope these tips help you in your role. What other tips might you offer to young leaders? Share them in the comment section below.
Photo produced by Štefan Štefančík
Also published on Medium.