Strong, quality leadership skills are some of the most important keys for young entrepreneurs to grow and develop. Good leadership is more than being the boss. It’s about courage and inspiration.
Whether you’ve successfully led a team before or have never been in charge of anyone else, here are 6 of the best ways you can grow your leadership skills before college.
1. BE A GOOD LISTENER
Think about the classes you’ve taken over the years and the teachers you’ve had. In whose classes did you learn more: teachers who lectured all period long, or those who engaged with the class? We’re willing to bet it’s the second group.
That’s because a good leader is also a good listener. You’re not there just to tell everyone else what to do. You must also listen to their concerns and opinions. Value their advice. A good leader wants what’s best for their team, and that means understanding where everyone is coming from and honoring what experience and ideas they bring.
While this doesn’t mean you have to do everything everyone else suggests, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of making your team feel like they are respected and appreciated. In turn, they’ll give you their very best work.
2. HAVE COURAGE
“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is triumph over fear.”
This quote, in various forms, is attributed to several different people. What it means for young entrepreneurs is that you will face moments on your entrepreneurial journey when you are afraid. It might be a fear of public speaking when you’re presenting your product to a panel of judges or peers. It might be a fear of approaching strangers with your sales pitch. It may simply be a fear of making your voice heard by the members of your team.
Whatever your fear is and wherever it comes from, you must find a way to move past it. No entrepreneur has found success by being timid!
- Acknowledge that your fear is valid.
- Consider all the worst-case scenarios.
- Think of ways you will handle each worst-case scenario.
Strong leaders feel fear all the time. But they do what needs to be done anyway.
3. LEARN TO DELEGATE
It’s natural for young entrepreneurs to have a mindset that only they can do things correctly. And while it’s good to believe in yourself, consider delegating some responsibility. Doing too much isn’t good for your mental or physical health. And it can get in the way of your success.
Ask yourself: are you really handling everything on your plate right now? Or are you overwhelmed, maybe even burnt-out?
Take a step back and look at your small business. What are some tasks you can delegate, or even automate? Consider: if keeping up with your business’s social media accounts feels like a chore that you dread, maybe there’s a close friend or family member who can take that on for you. Ask your parents and siblings for help with things like packaging orders. Keep in mind that you are not alone on this journey, and all good leaders know how (and when) to delegate certain tasks.
4. THINK STRATEGICALLY
What does it mean to “think strategically?” It means keeping one eye on the future and being prepared for twists and turns. Leaders must think strategically so that they know what to do in an emergency. At the start of the global lockdown in 2020, the best leaders knew how to pivot their businesses to stay afloat. Restaurants that had been dine-in only partnered with delivery apps to bring food to people’s homes. Companies that knew how to use video chat apps like Zoom kept employees productive and paid.
But leaders who think strategically don’t only do so in times of crisis. They also know how to spot trends and use them to bring value to their companies. They maintain a long-term view of the business and use that to make decisions. This is how they stay at the forefront of their fields and lead their teams to success.
5. CONTROL YOURSELF
If there’s one thing teens are well-known for throughout history and around the world, it’s big hormones that lead to big emotions. This is neither good nor bad. There are both positive aspects to your big emotions, as well as some drawbacks. As far as being a young entrepreneur goes, you never have to suppress all your feelings to be a good leader. In fact, being authentically yourself will help others trust you.
At the same time, try not to let your emotions dictate your decisions and reactions. Remember that not everything is a personal insult. Others are entitled to their opinions. Sometimes, no matter how hard you’ve worked and how prepared you are, things just aren’t going to go your way. Do your best to keep your biggest, most explosive, most potentially damaging emotions in check. Successful entrepreneurs need thick skins.
6. HAVE INTEGRITY
At its most basic definition, integrity means keeping your word. Don’t be one of those people who flakes out on plans all the time, is always late, or blabs secrets. Instead, be the reliable person that everyone knows they can count on. Follow through with your promises and tasks. Be on time. Do your best. Show your effort.
As a leader, your team will rise to your example. If you hold yourself to a higher standard of integrity, they will hold themselves to it, too.
These leadership qualities will take you far on your entrepreneurial journey. Not only will they help you succeed in your small business startup, but they will help you in college and beyond. Even those who feel like they were born to be leaders need to be reminded occasionally of what true leadership looks like. And we know that as a young entrepreneur, these leadership secrets will take you far in life!
Find out more about the Kantner Foundation, including our college scholarships for young entrepreneurs in Florida, by clicking here. We look forward to your application!