Be a Leader Worth Following

For the past few years, I’ve become more involved in my local community and have had opportunities to serve in leadership positions for several organizations. Through leading and working with fellow millennials, I have learned that when leading people who are in your age group, you have to be particularly thoughtful of your leadership style.

Leading your peers (and sometimes friends), requires you to be an authentic leader and a leader that others want to follow. I have been led by people who I can tell are only in a leadership role for the perceived power, and I had no interest in following those people.

When seeking out and serving in leadership roles, in your professional or personal life, there are a few things you should do and a few things you should avoid. First, ask yourself why you are in said leadership role. Why did you seek out or accept the role? What do you want out of it? If you aren’t happy with your answer, or can’t find an answer, don’t take the role.

Being a good leader isn’t always glamorous and requires hard work; if you don’t know why you want it or why you would be good, you don’t need to serve in that role.

Here are seven things I’ve learned about how to be a leader worth following while leading your peers:

1. Know your limits and know how to say no.

The earlier you learn this, the better. I have found that once you start leading and serving, you get asked to do more leading and serving. Before you know it, you can be overcommitted and not have time for yourself or your personal life.

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If you want to be a good leader, only lead groups or organizations when you have time to lead then. And if you don’t have the time, say no! This can be difficult, but it is better to say no then to be an ineffective leader.

Related: The Value of No

2. Take responsibility for your choices and actions.

This is a skill that will help you in every facet of your life. When you make a choice to do something, take responsibility for it, good, bad or otherwise. This will help you be more authentic to your peers and those you are leading and will allow you to hold yourself accountable.

If you make a mistake, own up to it and learn from it. We all know people who blame everyone else for their choices and circumstances. I don’t know about you, but I am not running to follow those people.

How You Can Be a Leader Worth Following

3. Communicate openly and effectively.

Communication is vital to being a quality leader. I have seen (and been a part of) issues that have escalated because of miscommunication. And trust me those are not fun situations to be in. When you are leading, communicate with the people you are leading. Be clear about your expectations and make sure they are clear about what they expect of you.

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If something happens, communicate with the people involved. This is particularly true when you are involved in conflict. We all know that when conflict isn’t appropriately dealt with, it can blow up. Deal with things early. And some things can’t be done over email or text. Difficult conversations have to be had and frequently need to be had over the phone or in person.

Related: How To Have a Conversation You Don’t Really Want to Have

4. Check your expectations.

If you are involved in an organization outside of your job, it is voluntary for you and the other members. Remember this isn’t anyone’s job and they are not “required” to participate. So, don’t expect others to spend all of their time doing what you have asked them to do.

When I first got involved with organizations post-college, this would frustrate me. I had to remind myself that everyone’s job is different and some are more busy or stressful than others. Again, be clear about the expectations of the group (this may require that you set those expectations) and its members upfront and hold them to those.

5. Be humble.

No one likes a cocky leader. Don’t be that person. No one is perfect, and everyone will make mistakes. Be humble and recognize your flaws. Cut other people some slack, extend your humility to others and be understanding when working with your peers.

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6. Find a mentor.

I can’t say this enough — mentors are crucial. They can help with many different aspects of your life. For me, I have a mentor that I talk with specifically about my involvement. She is someone who is also involved in a lot of organizations and has dealt with many of the issues I am dealing with. When I have an issue, I know I can talk to her and she will have advice rooted in experience.

Related: Will You Be My Mentor?

7. Finally, be honest.

Lying will get you nowhere. If you can’t be honest–with yourself or others–you don’t deserve to be a leader. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard that you would others and that begins with honesty.

Being a leader can be great experience. I have learned so much and began wonderful friendships from my various leadership roles. But, know what you are getting yourself into and be clear on why you are doing it. Leading your peers can be difficult, but someone has to do it. Why not you?

P.S. Need some extra leadership reading? Here are some common leadership pitfalls from Entrepreneur