There is much to be learned from those who have served our Country by serving in the military. This is especially true if you look at some of the “specialized” organizations within the military. I am blessed to have some very dear friends who have served. One or two have served in some of our military’s most elite units. Consider the following as it relates to leadership and youth.
“We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates, and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.” — Navy SEAL Creed
Navy SEAL Teams are a relatively flat organization. Everyone goes through the same grueling training, and everyone is trained to lead regardless of age or rank. In the civilian world, emergent leadership is about team members stepping up and taking the initiative to accept more responsibility and to perform work outside of their general roles when called upon. If we, as leaders, encourage and promote this type of drive, our young team members will be ready to rise within the organization, and our organization will be better off for it.
Give them a platform. Don’t hide your young leaders. Show them to the world. Let them be a feature of your organization. Encourage them to contribute to the organization’s blog if you have one. Take them along with you to trade shows and give them an opportunity to represent you in the booth. And offer them opportunities to collaborate on ways to improve the organization’s systems and offerings.
Manage them, not their output. Get the right people in the right jobs, give them a goal, but don’t micromanage their efforts. It has been my experience that when someone comes to you and says, “I am not trying to micromange, but . . . “, they are usually micromanaging! Set goals and boundaries and then back off. Allow them to be innovative and develop systems, processes, and methodologies that will accomplish the goal you set for them and that get the job done. They may and probably will do it differently than you would have done it. And that is OK. Doing this will not only result in a more confident team and better retention, but will give your team members a sense of ownership that they wouldn’t get by simply following your orders.
Let them fail. This one is hard. I one had a boss that understood this principle and told me that if I wasn’t failing, then I wasn’t trying hard enough. So, while providing guidance and leadership, we must also allow for failure. Encourage your young leaders to take calculated risks when appropriate. When things don’t go as planned, use that as a coaching opportunity to help them understand how to succeed in the future. Any successful entrepreneur knows that they have gained the most wisdom through their mistakes.
Link their effort to tangible results. Real leaders want real metrics. They want to know exactly how their efforts affect the growth of the organization. As you develop leaders, give them goals and milestones to hit so they succeed incrementally and understand the roadmap for success. Ensure that they know exactly how their efforts and results drive the organization forward. As they develop in leadership roles, they will know how they got there and where they need to go next.
Reward Appropriately. They are wired differently than you and I are. Money and raises don’t motivate everyone. And those that they do motivate also indicate that this form of motivation is short lived. So, find out what makes your young leaders tick and reward them according to their individual makeup. Is it a gift card to the new trendy restaurant in town? Is it an outing to Top Golf? Find it and use it to reward them in ways that mean something to them.
Let’s encourage our young team members and provide them the resources that they need for success. If we can build our emerging leadership teams from loyal members who started at the bottom, then our organizations will be stronger and have a more loyal and stable foundation for growth.