First Time Leader? Here’s How to Overcome the Initial Challenges

Bumping fists
As workplaces get younger, so do their leaders

Leadership is not easy, particularly when you’re young and nobody taught you how to be a leader in college. Now, you suddenly find yourself in a leadership position, required to manage employees who sometimes are much older, and more experienced than you. Well, what do you do?

First, let’s understand the challenges that young leaders face in a workplace:

  • Dealing with and leading older employees
  • Not being taken seriously owing to lack of experience
  • Understanding and working with older, often obsolete operating procedures
  • Balancing youthful creativity with respect for older, more tested methods
  • Managing team members along with their own work.

Another cause for confrontation might be your rise to a leadership position while your older counterparts were left behind. This makes way for hostility that could be disastrous if you don’t rise to the occasion quickly.

Sometimes it’s better to throw the hierarchy out the window, work on the same table and get things done.


So as you embark on this new journey into the most interesting and fulfilling phase of your career, keep these tips in mind as you take on the above challenges : 

Watch and Learn, then Lead

You’re still young and inexperienced, never forget that. Be an active learner and listener. You need to earn the respect of your team by paying attention to all their interactions, within themselves and with you.

Do the members take notes? What kind of questions do they ask in meetings? Are they eager to follow-up? Every detail, every personality trait displayed should be accounted for.

In addition to this, learn from the experience of older employees. Utilise their instinct and street knowledge. Never stop learning. This will also help heal their ego’s if you just got promoted over them.

Get to Know Your Team at a Personal Level

While loyalty and ethics is a trait every good employee has, older employees have another major responsibility, their families. Don’t be another arrogant young leader but instead take some time out to understand you team at a more personal level. See it as an investment for increased efficiency. You can do this by taking them out for coffee, just chatting post-work hours or simply asking them a question about their family.

Team leader in a meeting
Get to know your team

You have to be a part of the team to effectively lead it. If your team members know that you care about what’s going on in their personal lives and take more interest in them then they will reciprocate with more dedication and passion. Make sure to be transparent and show them who you really are.

Be Less Authoritative and More Respectable

It is believed that a leader who yells is a leader merely by title. Don’t demand respect, command it.

You have to be a part of the team to effectively lead it.

As a young leader, learn to take ownership and hold yourself accountable to the best standards. At the same time, it’s okay to overlook small mistakes of your teammates. Don’t fall prey to the privileges of your position without creating a name for yourself through competence.

While you work on all of this don’t get too overwhelmed. Leadership like any other skill can be learnt and you will learn to deal with all of these challenges as time passes. Just keep going and make the most of your fresh perspectives and modern understanding amongst all the other leaders.  

Still in college? Find out how to build your leadership skills as a student here.

CareerNinja Team
CareerNinja is an edtech venture aiming to inspire, educate and guide students to move closer towards success. We provide the Indian youth with job focussed, practical content to get them more work ready. Our content ranges from articles and short courses to videos covering the personal, professional, social and academic lives of young Indians. Wanna know more? Get in touch via Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

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