After almost exactly two years of being a young corporate leader, it seems fitting to reflect on the challenges I’ve faced and how I’ve overcome them. I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard, so damn hard, but also very very rewarding.
1. I knew my biggest challenge would be gaining the respect of older team members. Coming into a leadership role at the age of 24 wasn’t very well received. Not only was I young but I used to be a peer, just to rub a little more salt into the wound. I knew I deserved it, I’d worked really hard for two and a half years to climb the corporate ladder but when you’re the age of some people’s children, it can be a little hard to swallow. Early on, I heard many comments about not having life experience. They’re right but I taught those staff that that’s why they are so valuable, because they can help me with their advantages and knowledge as well.
2. Most of my old peers came and left so the peer issue seemed to dissipate quite significantly however, those that remained found comfort in each other formed an army and finding a diplomatic solution is a challenging problem. It goes without saying that you can’t fight fire with fire, and you should even really fight, so often even just accepting the inevitable is a challenge in itself.
3. Changing the way you use words. This was a big one for me. I have a very dry and hard to read sense of humour. I had to reign this in and often my jokes could be misconceived. To counter this, I also made a concerted effort to get to know my team on a personal level so we can understand who each other is really is.
4. Having a life outside of work. I realised this very recently when my partner asked me what my hobbies were and I realised I didn’t really have any. This was a wake up call and encouraged me to change this right away where I now go to the gym every lunchtime, learn keyboard, have dabbled in hip hop dancing, and am studying to be a personal trainer.
5. Not caving into to corporate segregation. When you’re fighting for time, resource, money and everything else hard to find, it’s easy to come very “us and them”. I refuse to lose sight of the one-team goal which I hope I never lose.
6. Discipline causes deflection, and you often become the target. Performance management is a hard job for everyone however, this continues to remain my biggest challenge. I am still open to finding ideas and solutions as to the best way to effectively performance manage staff members who blame their shortfalls on you failing them as a leader.
7. I’ve learnt everyone will dislike you at some point. Whether it’s because you notice they’re always late for work, you have to decline their leave, or they’ve made the same mistake a few times. You just can’t sweat it.
I have to admit. I still don’t know if I’m succeeding but I know I’m growing and upon reflection, I can see I’ve developed some fantastic, successful people. I’m sure I will continue to learn the more I carry on.
If you feel like you’ve been in a similar scenario or have advise and learning, feel free to get in touch.