How you can grow as a leader

By Generation Next Governor at Large Jennifer Pellersels
Customer relations manager, Altec Industries

Published in the May 2015 issue of Generation Next Edition.

How does one become a leader? First, leadership can be defined as the power or ability to motivate and organize others in the achievement of a common goal. As a young professional in the work truck industry, I have learned there are different characteristics common to successful leaders. A few important traits that have helped me grow as a young leader include: communication, initiative, the ability to be open to change, and a willingness to volunteer. Before people can become good leaders, they need to have self-awareness and an understanding of their own motivations. If you are not passionate, it will be hard to influence others to follow you.   

To motivate others, a leader needs to know how to communicate well. Communication is essential for all leaders, and they must know how to do so through various modes, such as email, phone, or texting. Great leaders ask questions, listen, and effectively communicate with people at all levels of an organization. Effective communication is the glue that connects your ideas to others – ultimately improving teamwork, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Leaders know when to take risks and make decisions. This can be intimidating, especially if it results in a poor choice. However, everyone makes mistakes; it is how one learns and rises from those mistakes that make a difference. From personal experience, I had the opportunity to join a newly-formed department. This new group was viewed by some as a threat, because responsibilities were delegated and taken away from other groups. The decision to join presented a professional risk due to the uncertainty of the new department’s survival. However, it was the best decision I could have made. Not only was the new group accepted over time, but I had the opportunity to create a few new positions. It is not every day you get to create and define your own position. Press on. If your instinct tells you yes, then take a risk and make your decision!

If you wait to make a decision, you could get stuck in the sand. A leader needs to make decisions and embrace the inevitable – change. It is those who welcome change who will thrive. One major change that my own industry needs to think about is new technology. How will the trucking industry embrace this? How will current and upcoming leaders motivate the younger generation to pursue a career in this industry? Leaders know embracing change will help their company and industry move forward. This attitude can separate good leaders from the rest. 

Another way to impact change is to volunteer in your community. There are multiple opportunities for you to get involved, such as serving on committees or boards, coaching, or mentoring. I volunteer and serve on a couple of boards and committees for the local Chamber of Commerce. Through my volunteer service, I have learned from other leaders outside my industry. By observing and listening to other leaders, I have learned what kind of leader I want to be and how I want to give back. For current or future leaders, volunteering is an experience that will help you grow.  

If you are a young professional wanting to be seen as a leader, try these few tips or find a mentor. What better way to learn than from someone who is seen as a leader in your company, community, or industry? A quote by Peter Drucker says it well: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing right things!”

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