Every few decades we undergo a change in the workforce demographics. Leadership has always had its challenges, but there are inherently different kinds of difficulties when there is a new wave of younger leaders emerging in the workforce.
Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, sat down with Christopher Dorobek on the DorobekINISDER to discuss how young leaders can tackle some of the difficulties they may face.
To begin, Fox highlighted that the complications that arise from a younger individual entering a position of leadership are cultural in origin. “I think what makes it more complicated are the expectations and norms in society. We think that the older you get the more likely you are to be in a leadership position,” Fox said.
But fret not. “Even though there is a different sort of dynamic, it can be navigated if folks are honest and upfront about the circumstances,” Fox added.
New leaders should follow a few basic guidelines in order to better navigate upcoming hurdles.
First, “if you’re a new manager under any circumstances, but especially if you’re a young manager, sit down with folks and listen to their needs and concerns before you make any bold declarations about what you want to change,” Fox said. In the end, “it shows great maturity and poise if you are willing to address the issues directly.”
However, if you do find yourself in a sticky situation where you encounter resentment towards your new position, it’s in everybody’s best interest for you to tackle it head on. “The best you can do is try to build and then strengthen a relationship,” Fox sad. “Tap into others’ knowledge, their expertise, their style, and their preferences to see if you can make it work.”
Once all is settled, be prepared to “change your mindset about feedback. It’s not the feedback you receive individually, but rather, the feedback the team receives,” Fox said. “You have to change your equation to view the feedback the team receives as your reward for a job well done.”
Additionally, new leaders need to be mindful that not everybody gives and receives feedback in the same manner. In fact, “as a young leader you shouldn’t assume that the people around you, regardless of their age, want some sort of feedback or the same sorts of accolades you do,” Fox said.
Lastly, remember that “the difficulties and challenges that you are facing have been faced by many other people and have been overcome. While it seems impossible at the time, you should rest assured that you can find a way if you just keep your wits about you,” Fox stated.
Ultimately, you need to focus on “setting clear expectations and objectives about what needs to get done, provide people with the feedback they need, and simply work to clear a path for your employees to get things done,” Fox said.
Overall, just remember you were chosen for the job for a reason and are therefore meant to be there. Be humble and respectful of your co-workers and you will find that they will too soon see that as well. No one said being a leader was easy – but there are ways to make it better for both you and the people you’re managing.