As a young professional, I'm sure some of you have asked yourself the question of how to handle being a leader, especially when it means managing people who are your peers. Being one of the youngest in the industry, folks older than you are typically calling the shots, and you've accepted your job as a doer. But when you get the opportunity to be in that leadership position, do you really know what it takes to lead?
Recently, I came into a position of leadership. I have the skills and experience to be an effective leader - otherwise I never would have gotten the job. But I found myself struggling. After realizing this, I sat and thought about why. First, I was scared. It was with a brand new company so not only was I trying to fit into my position as a leader, but I was also trying to understand the culture and business I was in. Second, I was so much younger than many of my coworkers, and many of the people I was working with had been with the company for a long time. So everyone had a one-up on me, or so I thought.
I then started to look at YPs who are currently in leadership positions. People who I admire because they are who I want to be. And I took a closer look at why I admire them. The first thing I noticed is that they acknowledge the power they have in their position, but don't use that as something to hold over on everyone else. The second thing I noticed is that these people didn't stop being who they are. I guess I thought there was a mold you had to fit into to be an effective leader, but looking at these people, I realized that was a stereotype that needed to go away. And finally, I realized just how many of you YPs are IN leadership positions! I can count more YP leaders than what my fingers will allow. And that just turned on the light for me.
I also found some great articles with tips on leadership and advice on things to remember as a leader. Microsoft Business wrote an article with reminders on creating a genuine sense of commitment and being open to new ideas from team members and staff. The Leadership Institute created a list of leadership traits, which include integrity, courage, dependability and initiative. And Forbes wrote an article about steps to becoming a successful young leader at work, which includes taking time to assess the company culture, always making sure to offer help, and the importance of connecting with your colleagues as people and not as employees.
After discovering those key things, I took a deep breath because I realized I AM a leader. And my issues with that title are not so much anymore, but a gentle reminder that I can be confident in what I say and do with my team, instead of trying to fit a mold that doesn't even exist.
Suzanne Hoyer is a HYPE member who recently accepted a leadership position at United Technologies. Suzanne sits on the Personal & Professional Development Committee and the Community Involvement Committee for HYPE.