Written by Spadaque Volcimus
Leadership – There’s something off putting about the word. It has a cold, conservative feel to it, like John Boehner rubbing sun tan lotion on your naked shoulders. It conjures up images of stuffy politicians and type-A corporate people hurling incoherent business jargon at underlings. But because America is a country obsessed with leaders – dudes and dudettes who summon great wells of strength and insight to guide us to victory, or whatever – the concept and practice of leadership is something we all have to deal with at one point or another in our professional lives.
If you’re a 20 something, that point is usually after college when you’ve (hopefully) landed your first grown up job. Depending on how well you want to do at your newly found financial resource, you quickly decide if it’s worth stepping into the white hot spotlight of being a leader.
But getting to become someone people turn to for leadership isn’t something that just happens. You have to earn it. Superman had to save a bunch of people before he got to boss around the Justice League. Do you think you’re better than Superman? Do you? Didn’t think so.
So here: 7 Leadership Lessons Every Twenty Something Needs to Know
1. There is no magic key to becoming a good or even great leader. That’s because what leadership looks like in one situation might not be required in another. You might have to leap a tall building on Monday and on Tuesday come up with a dope presentation for a big meeting.
2. Still, there are some qualities that translate in any situation, like the ability to triumph over fear. As a leader, in tough situations, you cannot let people know you are afraid. If everyone is busy panicking, nothing will get accomplished toward taking care of the problem. Even if you have to pretend to be fearless, your example will inspire others.
3. Let’s face it, the quest to become a leader can alienate some folks. That’s why it’s helpful to build a base of support that you can turn to when others start to doubt you. Even they may not understand what you’re doing at times but simply taking a little time to explain goes a long way – bring your support base along with you. Being a leader isn’t about being a one man band.
4. Sometimes you have to let leadership look like you’re being lead. A leader’s job isn’t always about telling people what to do, there’ll be times where it will be about building consensus. What that means is simply listen. Let others say their piece before chiming in. Then slowly summarize everyone’s points of view and then your own thoughts, gently steering the decision making in the direction you wanted all along.
5. Haters, we all got them. So what, who cares about some haters? Well, you should. At work, someone who doesn’t want to see you succeed can make themselves a nuisance. Keep an eye on your haters by bringing them into your inner circle (but never depend or rely on them). A leader keeps her friends close and her haters even closer.
6. Smile. You’re not always going to be the most brilliant person in the room. That’s okay, because people often tune out what brilliant people go on about anyway. What they do pay attention to is your demeanor. A smile sends a message of openness. People like that.
We tend to see things in black and white but that can cause us to miss a solution to a certain problem. A situation is never either/or, leave room for nuance. Identify your goal and figure out the most practical way to get there.
7. Finally, a leader leads as much by what they choose not to do as what they do. There will be times where you’ll have to admit an idea of yours is bad and, thus, abandon it. Nobody likes having to do that. It’s a hard position to be in but a leader has to have the guts to make the decision. But in the end, you’ll be better for it and then be able to move on to something more viable.
Spadaque Volcimus is a blogger and actor living in Brooklyn, New York. He’s currently social media manager for a non profit working to instill confidence and self esteem in young women of color. You can follow him on twitter @Spadaque.