Overcoming The Challenges Of Being A Young Leader

Summary
Transcript

Kat Cole, COO and President, North America at FOCUS Brands, talks candidly about the challenges that come with being a young leader. She explains that overcoming these challenges often begins with “what you perceive others to believe.”

“If I'm a young leader and I'm leading others who are either younger or older than I am, then my ability to be confident in my decisions is in large part driven by my ability to believe that those that I'm leading respect me. And if I haven't had experience with them yet, I either choose to believe that they start with respect and it's mine to lose, or I choose to believe that they don't and its mine to fight and earn.”

Kat says that a key first step for young leaders is the need to be confident in their decision-making as they develop their leadership style. There will always be naysayers or people asking, "Why?" Why are you in this position? Why aren’t they in charge? But it is important not let those opinions influence the way members of the team are treated. Positive leadership requires that everyone on your team be treated with respect and integrity.

Kat shares valuable insights about how young leaders can develop their confidence, leadership approach and team building equanimity. Discover more about the challenges that young leaders face in this video, and watch other videos about training and development today on Leadercast!

When I think about the challenges that come with being a young leader, it's often in what you perceive others to believe. So if I'm a young leader and I'm leading others that are either younger or older or both than me, then my ability to be confident in my decisions is in large part driven by my ability to believe that those that I'm leading respect me. And if I haven't had experience with them yet, I either choose to believe that they start with respect and it's mine to lose, or I choose to believe that they don't because I'm a young leader and then its mine to fight and earn.

I think I've always had a combination of both belief systems that to a degree I start out with trust and openness and respect, but I'm also smart enough to know that there's often someone in the room that's wondering, "Why me? Why her? How did she get here and not me?" But I never let that color the way I would treat people. I would treat them and lead them as if they respected me and as if we were on an equal playing field, but I was aware enough to understand that that might not always be the case and I would need to be sensitive to that when asking people questions, delegating, delivering a message or leading a group activity, that there might be people that have a little bit of a hurdle mentally to agreeing with such a young leader being in the position I was in.

I think when you start with that level of belief and belief in other people and empathy for varying points of view, it comes across, and because of that you really minimize people's tendency to disagree or act out on the basis of age. But I've had my share of people who have said outright to me or to someone in the group, "She's too young," or, "She's never done this," or, "She doesn't have the experience." One, you take it as a compliment, and I've also learned to understand that everyone has a first.

If this is their first time working with a leader that's younger than them, I can imagine that that brings up some questions. Maybe they're really excited about having a young leader. Some people are. They want the fresh thinking, they want the energy, they want the different approach to work. So while some people might disagree with it or have some questions, I remember that has more to do with them than it has to do with me, and there are just as many people who are excited about a youthful and energized leader. So I try to focus on that but have a great degree of respect for those that for whatever reason in their own head and their own life have a little bit of a struggle with it, and then just like in old school customer service, kill them with kindness and work insanely hard to show them I'm there to serve them. With the leadership style and service, typically even the most staunch opponents of a young leader can come around and say, "Well, she may be young but I can tell she's here to help me be successful." That tends to reduce the barriers a little bit.
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Kat Cole

Kat Cole’s twitter handle reads “Connected-Creative-Conscious-Community building Capitalist, Biz Advisor, MBA, Coffee-loving Chronic Learner” – this not only describes her as a person, it describes the philosophies she applies to busi...

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