The task of leading others is anything but easy. Among other things, this role may place a tremendous burden on you to manage people from diverse backgrounds to think and act as one. At times, you may even have to lead people who are older and who come with more experience than you.
I can vouch for the fact that this is, to put it mildly, intimidating. When I had to lead people older than me for the first time, I kept telling myself "this sucks" every minute from the beginning of the assignment until I was able to present the final report to my boss.
But alas, had I known the following tricks that I know now after conducting independent research and interviewing a number of people, leading certain types of people would have proved much less difficult for me:
The seat you are currently occupying is rightfully yours
"It is important for you to understand that your bosses are not so stupid that they would put you in such an important position if they did not believe you could handle it," explained Redwan Rezvi, the Head of Logistics and Planning at Alesha Mart Ltd, and rightly so.
Before you even think of doing anything else, convince yourself that you have been given this responsibility solely because you are adept at what you do and have access to every trick in the book to meet the expectations that come with being a leader.
Would you follow the lead of someone who lacks confidence? No one in their right mind, I believe, would respond in the affirmative.
So, only when you are confident in your ability to lead, will you be able to work on gaining the trust of those who will work for you.
To put it simply, how can you expect those you are supposed to lead to believe in you if you do not believe in yourself?
Learn everything you can about them
To bring out the best in each member of your team, you must first understand how they may feel, act, or react to your words, how they prefer to work and learn, and what their strongest set of skills are.
How would you go about it? It is not that difficult. You could try talking to them outside of work. Try to get to know them. Do not limit your bond to simply assigning tasks and asking them to meet the deadlines.
Moreover, Azm Shohel, Director, Business Development at the Academy of Business Professionals, added, "This will make them feel more at ease with you, and make them more willing to share their problems with you, resulting in a healthy work environment not only for them but also for you."
The tricky part here is striking the right balance between being a boss and a friend. Know where to draw the line or your team members may develop a tendency not to take your orders seriously.
Encourage them to acquire new skills
Considering how fast the world has evolved over the last decade, you can expect to find some senior employees on your team that have not been able to keep up. As such, they may not be as culturally or technologically savvy as you would expect.
Even in a first-world country like the United States, a survey on digital literacy conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2018 revealed that 31.8 million Americans lacked the comfort or competence to use a computer.
However, you should not give up on a senior employee solely for this reason. Instead, as Rezvi suggests, "Do what a true leader would do in this situation- encourage them and give them the time they need to learn the skills they lack. This will instil a sense of respect for you in their hearts, and thus they will always go the extra mile for you."
Work alongside them and recognise their efforts
The co-founder and President of Footsteps Bangladesh, Shah Rafayat Chowdhury, believes that "Age is just a number, and in terms of older people, they tend to bring in a sense of wisdom and patience compared to their younger counterparts which we should value when running a business."
When leading someone older than you, try to make time to work alongside them. You will not only be able to show your work ethic to them but also understand how they work and learn from them by doing so.
Also, do not forget to give them credit where credit is due. Todd Nordstrom stated in one of his articles published in the Inc. Magazine that 79% of the people he surveyed quit their jobs due to a lack of appreciation.
Do not be the boss who would compel someone to quit his/her job; learn to appreciate their hard work instead.
In that regard, Shohel said, "Remember, people who work under you want to be praised by you for a job well done just as much as you want to be praised by your boss."
Look for co-leaders
If you find yourself in a position where you must lead a large group of people, it is a wise decision on your part to select some members of your group to assist you in leading.
"Co-leaders can not only strengthen communication and interaction within the group, but they can also handle things most appropriately if you are absent from work due to an emergency or any other reason," Rezvi explained.
Stand strong in your decision
Stick to your decision as much as possible. Sticking to a well-informed decision does not mean that you are being rude or you are not showing respect.
Simply put, it means that you dare to stand firm in your conviction and words in the face of opposition when you have reasonable grounds to believe that your decision will benefit the company in the long run.
In this regard, Rezvi further stated, "A team will only follow a leader if they believe he has a clear vision for how to achieve the goal for which they are supposed to work."
However, as Shohel reminds us, "Instead of forcing them to do something, try to convince them to walk with you. Otherwise, they may feel that you are being disrespectful to them, which will only breed a sense of lack of respect for you within the team."
The author is a journalist.