I was a young leader. I was the president of my high school and college. I was an officer in the Air Force and put in charge of 23 people… at only 22 years old. I made a lot of mistakes, and if I could go back and give some advice to my younger self, this is what I would say:

A title is not authority. Just because you are “in charge” doesn’t mean you are actually in charge. If you want to lead, you have to earn credibility over time, especially if you’re a young leader. How do you earn credibility and followers?

  • Capable – learn how to do your job extremely well – this will earn you respect
  • Committed – be in it for the long haul
  • Open minded – realize you may not be right and be open to other approaches as you learn
  • Humble – defer to the more experienced people around you and openly recognize that you are learning and don’t have all of the answers
  • Patient – young people typically want results overnight. Realize success and progress can take time
  • Curious – ask a lot of questions and learn why things work the way they do
  • Passion – young people are also passionate – don’t be shy or embarrassed about this, it’s one of you best tools to rally other people around you
  • Don’t Judge – be slow to form opinions and judgements about those around you. While someone may not fit your ideal mold for something, it doesn’t mean s/he can’t contribute to the overall success of the team.