‘Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day’: 5 Lessons from a Young Leader

Employers Professional & Managerial Recruitment Industry Tips & Tricks

Entering into 2016 as a young leader in recruitment, I find it timely that I put on paper a few lessons that I have learnt in my current role. I think back to 2013 when my CEO, Simon Bennett, gave me the chance to step into a leadership position. I was excited, pretty naïve (if I’m being honest), and a little bit nervous; yet here I am 3 years later, managing a team of 14 staff across various roles within an agency environment. Boy oh boy have I had my fair share of challenges, celebrations, and surprises. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not an expert! But what I can share with you are some of the lessons I have learnt on my leadership journey – with mountains more to come!

You don’t always have to be right; it’s okay to make mistakes.

When I started my role as Business Manager, I had an expectation that I always needed to be right. I felt that if I was the leader, I needed to know my stuff! The reality is, no one is always right, and it doesn’t matter what your job title is – you are going to make mistakes. It’s how you deal with those mistakes that make you a real leader.

The stronger your team, the stronger the leader you are.

It’s funny – you hear stories all the time about how you need to be the best. When I first started in my role, I thought it was important that everything came through me; I needed to know the comings and goings of the branch in every aspect. The reality is, if you build a strong team around you, you will be a successful leader. In fact, part of measuring your success as a leader is that your team can operate without you having to make every decision. I know for me, the true measure of whether or not I have built a strong team is that I can be away from the branch and know that my team will operate at the same level as if I was there.

You don’t have to be the Big Bad Wolf.

I know going from a role ‘as part of the team’ to a role leading the team has its challenges, but the important thing I have learnt is that you don’t have to become the Big Bad Wolf overnight. In fact, that’s one way to lose a team. I agree that you have to ensure you are respected in your role; no one is going to respect the leader that is making decisions to increase their control. But just think to yourself – is this decision to the benefit of the company and the people, or is it to benefit me?

You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend.

I guess this is the flip side of my last point; you don’t have to be best friends with the team. I certainly felt the natural human instinct to be liked from the people in my team, however, it goes back to that respect piece – you don’t have to make decisions to please people, but you do have to take the time to look outside of your role and gauge the impact your decisions could have on your team.

Don’t take everything personally.

I still remember receiving the first resignation from someone in my team. I sat at my desk thinking, “what did I do wrong?” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a blow to any leader to lose a strong staff member, but my mindset around this has changed. Sure, there are instances where people leave because of their leader or manager, but it’s not every time. It’s really important that you lead by example. For me, learning how to remove emotion out of decisions has increased my ability to think logically and strategically.

There are plenty more lessons I could add to the list – but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I am very privileged to hold a leadership role at Madison, and I’d like to leave you with one piece of advice from an old Maori proverb:

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini.

It is not my strength alone, but the strength of many that contribute to my success.