Here on ToddNielsen.com, we often discuss how we can develop leadership qualities within ourselves and within organizations. Established leaders, also have an obligation to pass the baton and help develop leadership in others. This, more than anything, is the hallmark of good leadership. Just as John Quincy Adams once noted, “If your actions inspire others to learn more, dream more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” If you have young people in either your professional or personal life, lift them up and in so doing, inspire an entire generation of future leaders. Here’s how:
1. Impress upon your young charges the importance of constantly learning.
Perhaps the most important key to future success and personal fulfillment is developing a desire to constantly learn new things. If you are an employer and you supervise young people, give them tasks that require learning and applying new skills. Encourage them to learn outside of work, to learn for its own sake and enjoyment.
2. Put them in situations in which they have to make serious decisions.
Good decision-making skills are another important element in leadership. Of course, you can talk all day about the qualities inherent in strong leaders, but it’s important to put young people to the test so they can actually begin practicing leadership skills. If the young people in question are your employees, put them in a situation in which they make serious business decisions. Guide them through the process of decision-making, and show them how each decision requires compromise and give-and-take.
3. Emphasize loyalty and humility over personal gain.
If there’s one thing that many leaders in the financial industry learned, it’s that greed trumps responsibility to your clients and the common good. We often talk about ethics in leadership, but we all too often only pay it lip service. Talk to your young future leaders about the importance of loyalty and service. Financial greed never pays off, doing the right thing does.
4. Be the best example you can be. Actions speak louder than words.
Being a good example is the most effective way to mentor young professionals. That means always being aware that you are being watched by young people who look up to you. Never take shortcuts, own up to your mistakes and otherwise be the person you want others to see you as.
Inspiring leadership in younger people is by no means easy. But as a current leader, you must develop a vision for long-haul sustainability for your current enterprise and society as a whole. This can only be done by investing in young people. Soon enough, they’ll be running the world.