How Young People Can Build Credibility and Lead Organizations

There’s this neat trick that I picked up from John C Maxwell’s book on leadership:  when you are in a group, you can tell who holds the most power by observing who the speaker is looking at while talking.  If the leader of that group is talking, they’re probably looking at everyone equally.  But if anyone else is talking, chances are, they are looking at the leader.  The interesting part about this exercise is that often times, it’s not the person with the fancy title who has the real power in the organization.  I use this whenever I go into a new business setting, because that’s who you know you have to impress. They are the real decision makers in that organization.

On the flip side of that, just because I give you a fancy title, doesn’t mean people will automatically respect you.  The people who are the hardest hit are usually the young people who don’t have incredibly impressive resumes, but who have a lot of potential (and just need the chance to prove it).  So how do you build your credibility (when you know you deserve it?)

  1. Asess everyone under you: what motivates them?  What do they want out of the organization? What are their goals?
  2. See where they are at right now/assess their current level
  3. Build that bridge to help them get from where they are to where they want to go
  4. And this is crucial: Make sure they get results and make sure they see how much they have improved.

Now step 3 is pretty tough, because everyone learns in a different way, and it depends on your relationship with your employee.  That’s where you have to really spend time getting to know the people under you- what’s their style/what relationship do you have with them?  At the end of the day, you need to figure out how to impart the information you have so that they see results and meet their personal goals.  Do they like figuring things out on their own (i.e. will you have to use a series of leading questions to help them reach their own conclusion?) or do they prefer lecture style (you just straight up tell them what they need to do?) Do they need to feel like the whole thing was their idea, or are they ok with you telling them to try this way of doing things (or your money back?)  The hardest thing you’ll have to do is put your ego aside and do whatever needs to be done to impart that knowledge to build the bridge to get the people working under you where they want to go.

But in the end, results speak for themselves.  The hard part is getting people to do what you know will get results. But once people taste success, they tend to listen again after that.

The key takeaways are: If you give people what they want, you’ll build the credibility you need to lead (no matter how young you are).

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