7 Random Pieces of Advice for the Younger Leader

I love working with younger leaders. It keeps me young and it helps to know I’m investing in something and someone who will likely last beyond my lifetime. I want to share some things I’ve learned from experience. Some of it hard experiences.

Here’s a random list of practical advice for young leaders.

If you can learn and practice these early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience.

Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes – It helps you remember but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed. If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people that’s what you are doing.

Respect your elders – The fact is, you may not always feel respected by them, but that’s their fault not yours. Showing respect to people older than you now will ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Learn all you can from everyone you meet – This includes the awkward, even difficult people that you encounter. (You may actually learn more from them if you’re willing.)

Keep a resume handy and keep revising it – You may never use a resume again in today’s work world, but the discipline of gathering your experience as you gain it forces you to think through your worth to a future employer. You’ll likely be asked to defend this someday and need to be prepared.

Never burn a bridge– You’ll be surprised how many times relationships come back around. Don’t be caught by surprise.

Be an encourager in the organization – Encouragers win the approval of others and are rewarded because they are liked. Be a genuinely positive influence on your team.

Never underestimate a connection – When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. Follow through on the opportunity to know someone new. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will work for good.

Drop the defensiveness – Young people often get defensive when a person with more experience shares something they do not yet know. This is especially true when being corrected by a leader. Remember you don’t know what you don’t yet know. It’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Grow from your correction. Be patient with those who are trying to teach you. Get the chip off your shoulder and allow feedback to make you better. Over time you’ll win over those who see you as inexperienced.

There are 7 random suggestions. Elders, what other suggestions would you advise?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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26 thoughts on “7 Random Pieces of Advice for the Younger Leader

  1. "When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment."

    That's a new one I haven't heard that I really like. Thanks for that tip.

    Although I'm not an elder, and since it seems the younger ones have commented while adding their own tips, here's one that really helped me…

    Read the classic book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" over and over until you have the principles explained in it memorized. I've heard testimonies from those who are masters at those principles who have planted churches where all the participants were not-yet-Christians at the beginning…

  2. Thank you for all the tips (and thanks to all the people who left additional advice in the comments). As a 23 year old who got thrust into a leadership position, I need all the help I can get. I'm definitely bookmarking this :) God bless!

  3. thanks ron… a couple more pieces of "advice" for younger leaders:
    1) learn to lead "up" (and "sideways" and "down")
    2) performance and results matter – if you want to gain more credit with senior leaders, perform at a high level. show a willingness to go above and beyond.
    3) find mentor(s) – find mentors in different areas of life… ministry/leadership, marriage/family, business, etc. don't expect one mentor to cover all the bases

  4. Great post! Us young leaders can be arrogant jerks sometimes! Sorry about that!
    “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Prov 12:1
    Twitter: ChallengeCSUC

  5. Thanks Ron – great post. Interesting…I am 41, still consider myself in the 'younger basket' and just feel I'm starting to learn a little about life – yet yes, others do seem to be looking to me for 'wisdom'. Scary thought! I particularly appreciated 'be an encourager in the organisation' – yes, always room and need for more encouragers!

  6. Ron
    I agree with everyone of your points. I am 36 and have made some of these mistakes and have had to learn the hard way. Still others I’ve been able to avoid. I think all young leaders would do well to listen to your very good advice. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Ron,

    Thanks for this post! I might add:

    1. It's better to lead from where you really are then trying to lead from where you'd like people to think you are.

    2. Follow Through on everything.

    3. Set doable expectations for projects you're working on. It's better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver.



  8. These are good thoughts. I would encourage them to have a strong work ethic. I don't see many young leaders with strong work ethics. This is the greatest thing that I would encourage them to do.
    Twitter: ericspeir

    • I completely agree. It's one thing I see lacking in some young leaders. Although I'm often reminded that they work “different” than my generation.

  9. One question…what age do you consider younger?!?!?!? At 40, I still consider myself in the "younger" group, but I am beginning to feel I may not actually fit that label!

    Anyway, this is a great idea and a great list.

    I focused on number one – have a way to take notes. Great advice (especially telling others you are taking notes on your phone, not texting!) and needed advice. While I cannot imagine going into a meeting with some way of taking notes, I see younger employees seem clueless when asked about it.

    I will be passing this post to our leaders (and beyond them to their team members).

    Thanks for a very useful post!

    • That's a great question. I was just having it with someone else today and may answer in a blog post some day, but I have a theory. It's actually based on some psychology I remember from grad school. The age of 35 is an age where we begin to dispense as much wisdom as we are gaining. Not that we don't continue to gain wisdom, but the pendulum swings a bit and more people look to us for wisdom. (Interesting that's the age one can be president.) It takes about 5 years…your age…before one begins to realize…like I do…that you're at that place where people are looking to you for advice, but at the same time, you feel you are just now stating to have any answers…and the main thing you've learned is how much you don't know.Not sure that answers your question, but I'd say you're moving into a “new season” of life.

  10. As a younger leader, I would like to add the following advice for any younger leader:

    — Never stop learning
    — Do not be negligent or overconfident in performing one's duty
    — Be open to ideas and suggestions (always)
    — Value integrity more than charisma
    — Keep a great attitude in life
    — Never give up in life (Never say die) Keep persisting