11 Key Ways a Younger Leader can Gain Credibility

Are you a young leader looking to gain credibility? What to do?

I talk to leaders all the time, especially those in their 20’s, who are seeking the quick credibility answer. How do I get credibility now and not have to wait until I am in my mid 30’s or early 40’s before people will respect and respond to me?

Well, great question.

I have a theory. The Credibility theory.

Starts with an equation, since I was a math minor in college….. Ultimately, credibility is this:

C = T x (E + E). Credibility = Time (multiplied) by Experience + Expertise

Whether a young leader, or a seasoned leader, this Credibility theory can work for you.

So here are some thoughts on how to best gain credibility now:

1. Listen. Listen. Listen. Simple enough. Ask great questions of those around you, and then LISTEN to the answer. Don’t talk until you have something to say. Learn to ask great questions and learn from them.

2. Write it down. Record it. Put it in a moleskine or evernote or on your iPhone. But be just short of annoying on capturing things you hear and watch and are part of. You’ll find that writing something down automatically makes it a priority.

3. Find those who are smarter than you, and latch on. Learn from them. Ask questions. Be a learner. Connect with leading organizations, networks and individuals- connect with companies, teams or individuals who are highly respected, and you’ll gain respect.

4. Become an expert NOW, even before you need to be. Set a standard of excellence way before you’re the leader in charge who is expected to. That way when it’s your turn to come off the bench you are ready. When you are asked for your opinion or involvement, give it or do it.

5. Self awareness and self identity. Be self aware. Know who you are and where you are in life. You are young- deal with it. Don’t think you know more than you really do, or have more experience than you really do. Maintain a very clear and realistic picture of your self identity and current reality.

6. Demonstrate your ability to collaborate and be a team player. Reality is, most of us work in a team environment, so you have to show your ability to get along with others in making things happen. The Lone Ranger and Han Solo aren’t ideal.

7. Stay focused, but broad. Those who have the most credibility no longer are just experts in one area. You need to be a generalist, but have the ability to dive deep in a certain expertise area.

8. Learn how to follow. And follow really well. It will position you for authority later.

9. Deliver. Faithful with little, faithful with much. No matter what the task or assignment, whether how important or how minuscule, GET it DONE. Work really hard. Be a hustler. Accomplish getting coffee or making copies or working on spreadsheets or filing papers like it’s the most important assignment ever. Demonstrate in the small and unimportant tasks the characteristics you will still have with the large and important tasks. Do what you said you would do. Follow through. Credibility is built over time because of hundreds and hundreds of small assignments done well.

10. Lead with humility. Be known as the team member who will always get it done and is completely trustworthy. Show up early. Leave your ego at the door. Do your work with excellence. Volunteer for the tough assignments that no one else wants. Be the Hungry 2nd, not the Arrogant 1st. Act like you don’t belong. No one enjoys being around someone who thinks they deserve way more credibility than they really do. Stay humble and motivated, with an attitude and posture like you really don’t belong in the conversation.

11. Be patient and let your Experience create your Expertise. Credibility comes with action- doing, not just thinking or talking. Jump in and get involved. Do something. A little dirt on your hands and sweat on your brow goes a long ways. A platform takes time- it’s just a reality. Most of us aren’t patient enough to spend adequate TIME at DOING something until we gain a platform or credibility. We usually lose interest, get bored, or just simply move on to something else. The key- stick with it. Gladwell says it takes at least 10,000 hours.

How High is Your Emotional Intelligence?

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Measuring your IQ has been a standard for years and years. We determine how “smart” someone is by their IQ score.

How about your EQ? Your emotional quotient. Your level of emotional intelligence. Your ability to read people, connect relationally, create long term friendships and relationships, etc.

Why is it that some folks just seem to have that sixth sense when it comes to connecting with people? Why is it that the one staff person can always talk the cranky accounting person into approving the difficult invoice that no one else can get pushed through? Or that sales person can get on the phone with the angry customer, and not only solve their issue and dissolve their frustration, but actually upsell them on a new product. Certain folks seem to always get a yes, when you’ve tried and tried and get nothing more than a no.

This comes back to your EQ level. High EQ leaders typically are persuaders. They tend to move into influential positions more quickly and stay there.

There’s no question that the higher your level of influence, the more relational equity you need to have. Most notable leaders throughout history have high EQ scores.

High level deals require high level EQ. High level positions require high level EQ. High level opportunities usually require a leader with high EQ. To make it work you gotta be able to connect.

The greatest salespeople in the world have off the chart EQ scores. They can easily connect with you and ultimately make you feel so positive about a conversation or a product or service that you just can’t help but say yes.

The dominant voice on Emotional Intelligence over the last several years has been Daniel Goleman. Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why it can Matter More than IQ is the classic EQ book. I highly recommend it.

Remember to work on your EQ as much as your IQ. Find others around you who are incredible at reading people and connecting with people and learn from them. Ultimately, just remember that your EQ factor is just as important as your IQ factor.

Beware of a Shortcut Leadership strategy

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I admit, I get a bit impatient at times….. Okay, maybe that is a slight exaggeration…..I get very impatient at times!

Lately, I’ve noticed a ton of impatience in my driving. Now it’s not road rage (not yet!), but getting close. It’s not just that slow drivers get in the left lane, but more that I seem to think I now know every shortcut in the greater metro Atlanta area. So my solution for impatience on the roads is that I get frustrated and try to find shortcuts or alternate routes to get somewhere. Only to find that these shortcuts end up taking longer and actually don’t get me to my destination at all.

We’re all like this at certain times in life. We look for shortcuts, for alternate routes, for the easy road, the road less traveled but quicker to the destination. Or so we think.

So here are a few thoughts on Shortcuts that hopefully are helpful.

1. Shortcuts aren’t bad. Most shortcuts are valuable and helpful. But beware of constantly looking for them.

2. Little (or at least less) strategy goes into shortcuts. as so many times shortcuts haven’t been planned out, and actually lead you to a different destination, or worse off, just get you lost and late to your final destination.

3. Being impatient is not a good thing. Patience is a virtue. Shortcuts are usually due to impatience and frustration, vs. relying on a system that has proved worthwhile over time.

4. There’s value in the journey. the longer route may be better for you in the end. You’ll see or hear or learn things that you wouldn’t have otherwise. And maybe see more scenery, and find that it’s intentional and on purpose.

5. The quality may suffer. In organizational life, shortcuts may end up leading to a lack of excellence.

6. Short term gain vs long term rewards. Shortcuts are usually tied to short term gain. Again, not bad, but long term perspective and long term goals are what vision and legacy are built on.

7. Staying in your lane. Be committed to the lane and current assignment you have. Switching lanes and switching roads and switching routes leads to anxiety and lack of contentment. Be diligent and faithful to the road you’re on.

So next time you think you see a shortcut, and you’re convinced it’s the better road to take, beware.

10 Keys for a Great Team

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What actually makes a great team? We’ve all been on teams, whether in school, in athletics, in our churches, organizations, and communities. We’ve watched great teams win championships, we’ve marveled at their ability to create amazing resources, new technology, and jaw-dropping experiences.

There are lots of qualities that make up a great team, but thought I would point out ten that seem to be consistently evident across the board.

1. Humble yet confident leader- Humility and authenticity starts at the top. Confidence and courage starts at the top. Everyone wants to assume that team culture is created bottom up, but at the end of the day, great teams look to a confident leader.

2. Skilled linchpin (s)- Most of the time this is the quarterback for a football team. Or the point guard for a basketball team. Or the project manager on a new technology being released. Or the producer releasing a new movie. Peyton Manning, Magic Johnson, John Lasseter at Pixar. Every great team has to have at least one linchpin who is crucial to the success of the team. Most great teams have several.

3. Clear Vision and Clear Goal- think about it. Pretty much every sports team we’ve ever played on had a clear goal- win the game, win the division, win the championship. Great teams have vision that inspires and goals that are attainable.

4. A cause greater than themselves- We all desire to be part of something way bigger than us. For the New Orleans Saints, they played several years ago for the city of New Orleans during the aftermath of a hurricane. The 1980 USA Hockey team played in the Olympics for an entire nation.

5. Constantly getting better- great teams continue to improve on a daily basis. Great teams don’t allow for mediocrity to set in. They push themselves on a daily basis, and that accountability is held by the team, not necessarily just by the leader.

6. Get it done oriented- all about action. Great teams don’t just talk about it. They make it happen. They are relentless in pushing projects across the finish line.

7. Willing to fight- Great teams fight consistently. About ideas. About direction. About strategy. And the best ideas win. Trust is crucial. And everyone on the team trusts each other enough to fight for their ideas, and argue, and debate. And leave it at that. Great teams are competitive, but equally collaborative.

8. A standard of excellence always- great teams set amazingly high standards and goals. And they aren’t wiling to settle for second best. They never coast. And are always great at the little things, which makes them great at the big things.

9. Nimble yet mature- regardless of how big or complex teams get, they always stay nimble enough to make decisions quickly and change directions on a moments notice if needed.

10. Actually like each other- team chemistry is incredibly crucial. They want to serve each other. They believe in each other. There is a cohesive spirit and a sense of unity that others take notice of immediately.

What else would you say makes a great team?

12 Keys for Attracting Young Leaders to Your Team

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Let’s face it- young leaders are the future of your organization. Whether you like it or not, they will soon take over and be running the show. Your show. My show. If you aren’t attracting young talent, then the days are numbered for your influence and the legacy of your organization.

So why are there certain organizations and certain leaders who always seem to attract younger leaders to their team? Whether a pastor, entrepreneur, CEO or non-profit Executive Director, there are certain leaders, certain teams and certain organizations that EVERY young and ambitious leader wants to be a part of.

What is it about THIS leader and the organization they lead that attracts young leaders? Such a draw that young guns are willing to jump on board with them and storm the castle. Regardless of pay, structure, environment, city, setting, or future opportunities, young leaders want to be around these types of leaders and be a part of what they are doing.

You want young leaders on your team? Here are a few KEYS I think young leaders are drawn to:

1. Humility, combined with incredible passion and skill. Realizing it’s not about you. Jim Collins writes about this as the key characteristic of a level 5 leader.

2. Unwavering commitment to reaching their desired audience and accomplishing the mission. Know the hill they are climbing and willing to fight to get to the top.

3. The IT factor- hard to explain, but easy to spot. Young leaders can sense it and want to be tied to leaders with IT.

4. Collaboration and not competition. A leader who celebrates others’ victories along with their own.

5. Willing to give over responsibility and authority, vs. a “wait your turn” mentality. This kind of perspective and organizational culture will allow young leaders to lead – given they are qualified and can handle it.

6. Authenticity. They keep it real. Young leaders clamor towards authentic and honest leaders.

7. Open to change. This is a big deal. If you as a leader are not open to change, no one worth their salt will probably be willing to follow you, especially younger leaders. (thanks to Shinabarger on this one)

8. Can have at least a little fun. Like attracts like. It’s a reality= regardless of age, demographic, and style. The next generation wants a family environment that is fun and experiential.

9. Confident risk taking. Passionately create a culture that takes risks, allows for failure, and thinks outside the box.

10. BIG vision. Young leaders want to change the world, and want to follow leaders who think BIG and dream big.

11. Hustle and Hungry. The next generation expects you to be beside them in the trenches, not in the corner office sipping on Spritzers. Hustle and hungry, not arrogant and entitled. Besides your team, not out in front of them.

12. BEST at what they do. Regardless of industry or profession or organization, young leaders want to be part of a culture and organization built on excellence with a desire to be great. This is why Google and Facebook and Apple have hundreds of thousands of college graduates clamoring for a chance to be on the team.

What else would you add to the list of those leaders who are drawing young leaders to be part of their teams?

Are you a follower or a fan?

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Follower vs. Fan. Is there a difference?

1. Followers are committed. Fans can be fickle.

2. Followers trust their leader. Fans trust in their leader only when it benefits them.

3. Followers want a vision. Fans want a show.

4. Followers ask “what have i done for you lately?” Fans ask “what have you done for me lately?”

5. Followers are in for the long term. Fans are in for the short term.

6. Followers have an intrinsic connection; it’s not about wearing a t-shirt. Fans have an extrinsic connection; it’s ALL about wearing a t-shirt.

7. Followers don’t care who gets the credit. Fans draw attention to themselves.

8. Followers want connection and community. Fans want an autograph and a selfie.

9. Followers believe that what they are part of is truly making a difference. Fans believe that what they are part of is simply making a memory.

Are you a follower or a fan?