Young professionals just starting out might feel that they’re too young and inexperienced for leadership positions, especially if they have to lead employees who are significantly older. It’s hard enough to earn the respect of people your own age; older team members have more life experience and may doubt a young leader’s abilities. Let’s face it — some older team members may even resent a young leader because they feel that they are themselves more deserving of a leadership position by virtue of their age and experience.
When you attend post-graduate classes online to earn a Master’s in Organizational Leadership, you’ll have the skills you need to be an effective leader at work — no matter how much younger you may be. Leadership positions are accessible to young professionals. You just need to know how to achieve them and how to handle leading older team members once you do.
Get Experience Wherever You Can
Before you can excel as a young leader, you need to earn a leadership position. Begin while you’re still earning your degree by volunteering in nonprofit organizations or social groups where you’ll have a chance to hone your leadership skills. Join committees or organize projects at church, in school clubs, in your neighborhood or with your local chamber of commerce. This experience will give you confidence later on.
No one succeeds without help from others, so find mentors, coaches and advisors at work and school as soon as you know what you want your career path to look like. Cultivate relationships with mentors who can help you with advice and expertise at your current career stage. Nurture relationships with your peers in your own organization and at others.
Reaching out is especially important when it comes to leading people who are older than you. One of the biggest ways young leaders fail to inspire older team members — or team members of any age, for that matter — is by forgetting to forge a deeper connection. Take the time to cultivate relationships with your team members. Figure out what their priorities are and find ways to acknowledge them. You’ll earn your team members’ respect and loyalty by showing them that you care about them as people and are committed to meeting their needs.
In order to be an effective leader, you need to cultivate self-awareness. You can’t succeed in a leadership role if you don’t know what you’re good at, what needs improvement and what others think of you. Many young people lack self-awareness, so honing yours will give you an advantage over others your age. It can also help you analyze your personal and career growth over time, and can help you better understand what skills you need to look for when choosing new team members.
Many young professionals don’t understand you can’t command respect just by wielding a title. You may be the boss, but you still need the respect of your team members in order to motivate them to do their best work. Get your hands dirty. Take responsibility for your team’s work. Be honest and trustworthy. Care more about your team than about exercising your authority. Acknowledge those who’ve helped you and give credit to those who deserve it.
Respect the Workplace Culture and Its Traditions
Your creativity and new ideas are assets to your company. So is your command of social media and other new technologies that your older co-workers may not understand as thoroughly. But you can’t implement your own new ideas without first understanding the workplace culture that you’ve entered and the traditions that have kept it going.
People resist change. They like to keep doing things the same old way they’ve always done them — it’s easier that way. Learn the ropes at your organization and earn the respect of those you’re working with before you try to introduce change. When you do bring in your own ideas, do so in a way that respects the traditions on which the organization has been founded.
You can excel in a leadership position even if you’re young and just starting out in your career. Step carefully and cultivate your relationships with co-workers and team members. As your career progresses, your leadership skills and knowledge will only continue to grow.