5 Ways to Help Young Leaders Succeed

Leader Development

Financial adviser or business mentor help team partner up to profit growth

I love working with young leaders. I consistently look for ways to invest in and recruit those who are currently entering the field of leadership or who will be in the future. In doing so, I see part of my role in working with younger leaders as helping them succeed.

I’ve been practicing this for years with incredible results finding new leaders – for non-profits where I serve on the board, to businesses I’ve owned, to churches where I’ve served as pastor.

It is often easier to get a more seasoned or experienced leader. You do not have to invest time and resources in training. You have a more tested and proven person. I have found, however, in certain positions the younger leader is a good – sometimes better – option.

It is true though if you recruit someone who has never led – or never led at the capacity you are seeking them to do – there will be some learning curves. And, part of your job as a leader will be not only to recruit them, but to help them succeed. This may include special training, coaching or mentoring, but definitely requires intentionality.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about the process.

5 ways to help a young leader succeed:

Eliminate the fear of failing

If a young leader knows failure is welcome, and a certain amount of mistakes are even expected in the early days, they’ll feel more willing to take risks. They’ll more quickly begin to add value to the team.

Understand he or she may be afraid to ask

They may assume asking would be perceived as a sign of weakness. Younger leaders sometimes want to make the best impression and often this means they will refrain from seeking help. They may have 100 questions, but they don’t want to keep asking.

Release the tension of asking. In fact, approach them first with “What questions do you have?” Recognize their need for help acclimating to a new environment and new responsibility.

Give consistent, constructive, encouraging feedback

Young leaders, even more from this current generation entering the workforce, need to know how they are doing and how they can succeed. They may have an idea in their own mind. It may or may not be correct. They need to know what you think. They won’t know unless you tell them.

Tell them what they need to know, but don’t know to ask.

There are always things in any organization a person needs to know to be successful – the unwritten rules, the hidden culture. These things aren’t written in a handbook or in a employee orientation, but you can help young leaders acclimate faster by letting them in on “secrets” they’ll learn anyway sooner or later. It will be easier to learn them from you.

(And, keep in mind, they may disagree with and even defy some of the unwritten rules. They may change your culture. And, this may be why you need them most.)

Give them a seat at the table of influence

They probably haven’t earned it, but it will make them a better leader. It will stretch them. They won’t always feel prepared, but you already gave them the freedom to fail, right? Let them have some insight. Give them an early voice. They will more quickly feel like an insider and a part of the team and you’re more likely to discover a potential superstar leader.

Those are a suggestions. Any you would you add?

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20 thoughts on “5 Ways to Help Young Leaders Succeed

  1. Good content! I would add asking young leaders how you can leverage your influence to make them successful. Is there a project coming up that if you were to get behind it that it would gain some momentum. You can't be at everything, but what's one thing I can get behind that will make you successful?

  2. Ron, Your five are exellent and on point. I would add that a leader should plan to provide cover for younger leaders when criticism of them comes your way. I found out later that more mature leaders had deflected or confronted shallow and destructive criticism on my behalf before it ever reached me. As we grow, I think we are better able to discern the helpful from the destructive feedback, but when we are younger, it all hurts the same.


    • I think that is key….I'm one who handles my leader's issues when they don't even know the issue was presented. It's important to believe in those who serve under you, be a covering that protects them from unnecessary criticism when it comes your way, but also to be mindful when a pattern is developing in their life from the testimony of others. Then you can help grow them if they will humbly submit and listen.