Article: Steps to avoid the common mistakes young leaders make


Steps to avoid the common mistakes young leaders make

What if you are a young fellow, who has to step in a leader's shoes? What if you have no experience or expertise on leading people, or no fail-safe approaches to fall back on?
Steps to avoid the common mistakes young leaders make

Leadership - This three-syllable word is likely to have as many varied definitions, as there are people to define it. But as any leader worth his or her salt, will tell you, leadership isn’t easy, and nor does everyone handle it in a similar manner. If there’s one thing for sure, it is that every individual has a distinct leadership style, and the said individual usually grows into it, with time and experience. But what if you are a young fellow, who has to step in the leader’s shoes? What if you have no experience or expertise on leading people, or no fail-safe approaches to fall back on? Being a leader is a people’s job, in addition to the regular job that you do, and when you are a new leader, you are bound to make mistakes.

Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of potential mistakes that leaders, especially young ones, are likely to make, without realising so:

Avoiding conflict

A mistake that rookies make, pushing off an issue, which could lead to a confrontation, disengagement, altercation or all three, is a lethal mistake. Often, young leaders vary of their new role; suppress potential conflicts – like pulling up poor performers or acknowledging the mistakes made by the team – by either brushing them under the carpet, or facilitating a quick-fix agreement. While they might think they have nipped it in the bud, they’ve actually worsened the situation. 

How to avoid: Dissociate the idea of conflict with negativity or criticism. Look at conflict, as a positive concept, which leads to exchange of information, and take the conflict to its closure. The ideal flow should be: Expression, Deliberation, Resolution, and Actionable Take-aways. Read up on the use of semantics and diplomacy to handle conflict, and make feedback a critical component of conflict resolution. A conflict doesn’t have to be an argument, or exchange of hot words, but simply a clash of ideas, concepts and approaches and selecting the best one.

Fighting your team’s battles

As a young and new leader, it is but natural to feel like you are under the scrutiny all the time and you end up going the extra mile to cover up the weaknesses of your team. It is at this junction that the line between ensuring that all the work is done, and doing all the work yourself, begins to blur. If you keep becoming the saviour every time the team is in trouble, to save your own neck, you are actually doing a great disservice to your own team.

How to avoid: Delegate work, and keep team members accountable. Do not micromanage, and let the team find its groove, while you guide it – not while you do the work, and the team learns nothing. Keep a track of how individuals perform, and distribute work according to strengths and weaknesses, to allow for team members to learn from each other. 

Resisting change

There is comfort and surety in the tried and tested. After all, things have been working that way, and you could be sceptical of experimenting too much. You might even seek solace in the fact that you have been given the position to ensure things run as is – smoothly, and uninterrupted. But how do you want to be really known? As the person who helped the maintain status quo, or who changed it for better? Resisting change, and innovation, simply because ‘That’s not how we do it or That’s not how it is supposed to be done’, will do you no good.

How to avoid: Learn and build on your own and others’ mistakes. Do not give up because your first attempt at shaking things up didn’t work out. Allow room for creative, practical and innovative ideas and suggestions to reach you, and do not, under any circumstance, try to mimic somebody else’s idea of change eyes closed – create your own instead. 

Acting like a Boss

The unforgivable in the list; the second you consciously start acting like a boss, commanding respect, acting distant and authoritative, being unreasonable because you can, being unapproachable, and the worst of the worse, assuming you’re better than others by the virtue of your position, you begin your spiral to rock bottom, personally and professionally. 

How to avoid: The sure-shot way of being grounded is by remembering that you are replaceable, and just because you have reached this position, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to better yourself continually, to retain it. Team-wise, be appreciative, and celebrate small victories – in public view, and over appreciatory emails. Learn how to give critical feedback without being offensive, and establish an easily accessible medium of communication. Lastly, although, your DNA is wired to force you to act defensively, appreciate the logic and knowledge that evades you, when it is presented to you.

Focussing on process OR result

Doubling team results, or simplifying processes, within a day of taking charge, and being the youngest recipient of employee of the year, is the stuff that movies are made of, so spare yourself by imposing an unrealistic goal on yourself, simply to garner acclaim and appreciation. Do not be too focussed on increasing the numbers, or reducing the turn-around time, that you miss the bigger picture. 

How to avoid: Make a realistic and achievable growth plan for yourself, and your team, and keep reviewing, and altering it periodically. Do not get impatient to prove yourself, and do not adopt alluring short-cuts to boost your targets. Remember, processes serve a purpose, and the means of reaching an end-result are important, so do not get lost in numbers only.

Ignoring your own growth

Potentially the most fatal on the list, forgetting to ensure that you need to learn and grow continually, while discharging your duties, can bring a host of problems. You passion, zeal and knowledge may have gotten you so far, but in order to sustain at this position, and progress ahead, you need to take out time to better your skills, knowledge and learn. It’s easy to let personal growth slip to the bottom of your priority list in the face of managerial duties, but there is no easy way out to keep you on the track.

How to avoid: Find ways to stay in touch with latest industry developments, and read up to keep your knowledge updated. Find a mentor, who can guide you to proceed you to your next career milestone, and invest time, resources and energy in challenging yourself to better. By the unique position of your leadership, you owe it to your team, and yourself, to learn new things, and bring your knowledge and expertise to the table.

There you go, that wraps up some of the most common mistakes leaders, particularly young leaders, are prone to making, barring one. Do not put your work and career, over yourself, your health, and your loved ones. Every leader, who is at the pinnacle today, laments about this, so take cue. At the end day, you will in all likelihood, make these mistakes when you take charge, for there is no teacher like experience. But the key is to remember, that the nature of leadership is to make a constant attempt of bettering things, and improving them, working towards the ideal – and not being an end point in itself. 

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Topics: Leadership

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