Leadership Lessons I Wish I Understood as a Young Leader

Lately I’ve been thinking about some leadership lessons. You know…the “I wish I knew then what I know now” kind of stuff. See I’ve had a lot more time to think recently. That is, thanks to my wife for registering me for a triathlon this Fall. She said it was something that “we could do together.” She’s the one who races in the family. I’m the one who visited 5 different Starbucks cheering her on while she ran the Chicago Marathon. But it’s been interesting, as I’ve been training how many of my experiences have paralleled lessons that young leaders need to internalize and learn early, or risk potentially derailing their leadership journey before it really gets going.

So in no particular order here are 5 Leadership Lessons for Young Leaders based on my experiences training for a triathlon.

#1 Young Leaders have a Tendency to Overestimate their Capacity

When I started training for this triathlon I thought I’d pick it right up. After all I played varsity sports through out High School, have been pretty active as an adult, and heck I even lift weights pretty regularly. Well that was before I got in the pool and almost swallowed half of the water as I attempted to swim laps. Young Leaders are notorious for believing they can do more than they actually can. If you’re a young leader and ready to change the world, don’t be discouraged it may be in there; it just needs to be developed over time. You’re not nearly as good as you’re going to be if you keep working on it over time.

#2 Young Leaders Need to Learn Internal Fortitude is the Muscle of Leadership

I’ve got to be honest. There are days I don’t feel like training…I’d rather sleep. And there are moments when I’m running, or biking, or swimming that I’d rather just stop. But I don’t. And if you’re a young leader you need to soak this next statement in. The will to keep moving forward in the face of adversity, to find a way when there doesn’t seem to be a way; this is what separates “Big L” leaders from the weekend warriors. Not a lot of people will say this, this way, but there are a lot of ridiculously talented leaders out there (more talented than me) that fell by the wayside because they simply lacked the internal fortitude to take another step forward. They allowed their leadership muscle to atrophy.

#3 Young Leaders Need to be Given the Right Resources

I can’t believe all the gear that you “need” to run a triathlon, it’s a complete grocery list! Shorts that you can swim, bike and run in. Shoes that you can run in and another pair that clip into your bike. A helmet for your bike ride (we didn’t wear helmets when I was a kid…just saying). Oh yea, gotta have a bike, and I’m not talking about the BMX bike you had as a kid. A special watch for training where you can measure you distance, pace, calories spent and will probably tell you what time it is on Mars at any given moment. You get it. But why don’t young leaders get that there are real leadership skills that can be and need to be acquired and honed over time? If you’re a young leader and aren’t being developed where you are, then you need to take responsibility for your own growth. Listen, the majority of talented and experienced leaders out there aren’t going around looking for people to invest in. They’re up to their elbows creating the future! You’re going to need to find a leader who has what you want and chase them until they catch you. Remember leaders press into people who press into them.

#4 Young Leaders Need to Learn the Art of Transitions

I was feeling pretty good about myself and how my training was going until I started doing bricks. A brick is when you swim and then bike, or bike and then run. Using one set of muscles and then without stopping using another set. For a while your legs can feel a bit rubbery and like you’re running in mud when you transition from the bike to a run. It can be brutal. Leading is all about moving people and organizations from one place to the other. The trouble isn’t in the starting point or the end, it’s in the dead space in between. It’s transitioning.

#5 Young Leaders Overestimate the Moment and Underestimate the Journey

I must be nuts for letting my wife talk me into this race. Swim, bike, run and on top of that miss a day of College Football! A buddy of mine I’ve been training with is doing the race as well and he is going to absolutely smoke me on the bike, but I’ll catch up and leave him behind when it comes to the run! Young Leaders have a tendency to waste all their energy on one big moment and forget that there is a whole other leg to the race (there are actually multiple legs). One that they just may be well suited to succeed in. As Denzel Washington said in Remember the Titans, “It’s like Novocain, just give it time.”

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Posted in Leadership

One Response to “Leadership Lessons I Wish I Understood as a Young Leader”

  1. Joseph Lalonde September 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Paul, excellent list! I really like number 5. It’s one that we forget a mistake here and there can be overcome through perseverance and the end goal can be obtained.

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