Millennials, you are so eager to become leaders, and we're excited for you to get there. You were hired to solve problems and pose solutions. If you do not meet those objectives, you are actually costing your employer time and money. In order to thrive, you have to be a conscientious contributor to something greater than yourself. Every task, no matter how menial it is, will bring you closer to professional maturity.
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If you'd like to one day reach your leadership goals, here are a few things your employer needs you to know first:
1. Follow First, Then Lead
Before you can become a great leader, you need to become an exemplary follower. If you feel that serving others is beneath you, I can guarantee that leadership is beyond you.
2. Bloom Where You Are Planted
Focus on doing the best job you can in your current role. Commitment to that ethic will help you climb the leadership ladder. Every action you take may potentially hold the seeds of something greater. The main goal of earning is to be learning. Make yourself rich by soaking up every opportunity you can.
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3. Get Excited About Your Work
Even if your current role isn't what you want to be doing, get excited about your work. If you don't care about the job you're doing, why would anyone else care? Create an atmosphere of positivity around yourself at work. This will attract your boss's attention and is the single most important factor in your career progression.
4. Become an Early Adopter
Support company projects early by finding creative ways to contribute to company goals. Let your bosses know that you are a "lead follower" and want to assist them in moving a new project or idea out for full review, consensus, and adoption. Remember: Leaders cannot get it done without active followers. Be that kind of follower.
5. Talk Is Cheap
Stop telling me what a great job you're doing. Show me instead, and I will notice.
You have to understand that it takes time to build your reputation. Leaders are forged in the day in and day out of drudgery. All jobs, even your dream one, entail a certain degree of menial toil. Your job isn't about showmanship; it's about growmanship.
6. Don't Expect Something in Return
Sometimes, the reward for a job well done is knowing it was a job well done. Avoid the expectation that you'll always get something in return for doing a good job. Giving your all in expectation of reward isn't really giving. That's called "trading."
True leaders do what needs to be done regardless of what they get in return. What you gain is experience, judgement, and character – things that cannot be bought and cannot be acquired through any shortcuts. They can only be earned.
7. Stop Relying on Google
Technology gives people a false sense of experience. Finding the answer to a question online doesn't mean you can solve problems in real life. Learn to separate fact from opinion. Learn how to make a point without making an enemy. You can't be a strategic thinker without first being a critical thinker.
8. Understand You Don't Know What You Don't Know
You may have a seat at the table, but you should never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth closed and your ears open. You may think you have all the answers, but the fact is you haven't learned all the questions yet. Give your bosses the benefit of the doubt and learn from them. Until you sit in the big chair, you'll never grasp the full complexity of any given issue.
Titles and job descriptions do not make you a leader. True leadership is earned through experience and relationships, through triumphs and heartbreaks.
As you progressively develop your leadership persona, you'll realize that life is a journey of continuous development and renewal. Recognize this, and when you have the opportunity to take up the mantle of leadership, you'll be more than ready for it.
Tracey C. Jones is the author of the new book A Message To Millennials: What Your Parents Didn't Tell You and Your Employer Needs You to Know and the president of Tremendous Leadership.