5 Ways to Earn Your Team's Respect as a Young Leader New to a leadership role? Learn how to avoid common missteps and command real respect from seasoned colleagues right from the start.

By Murali Nethi

Key Takeaways

  • Make it a priority early on to have plenty of one-on-one conversations where you ask thoughtful questions and give people time to fully express themselves.
  • Even the most seasoned leaders are far from perfect; everyone makes mistakes or has knowledge gaps from time to time.
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In many professions, there comes a time when young talent must step up and take on leadership roles. This transition from a promising upstart to a respected leader is critical, yet it can be daunting.

How does one go from being seen as an inexperienced rookie to a capable chief that others look up to? Is it possible to lead older and more seasoned colleagues effectively? Yes, with the right approach. Here are some tips for young leaders looking to earn the respect of their teams:

1. Listen first, talk second

One fatal mistake I've seen far too many nascent leaders make is to assume they have all the answers from day one and start dictating strategy and policy right out of the gate. The problem is that when you barrage people with orders and directives without listening to their concerns, ideas, and unique perspectives, you will likely lose their trust and cooperation.

Truly respected leaders understand the importance of listening first and talking second. They recognize that each team member has valuable insights to share based on their distinct experiences and vantage points. So, make it a priority early on to have plenty of one-on-one conversations where you ask thoughtful questions and give people time to fully express themselves before voicing your own opinions. This demonstrates that their views matter and that you are willing to learn from them.

Related: 5 Rock-Solid Leadership Strategies That Drive Success

2. Propose, don't impose

Especially when working with seasoned veterans, it is critical to bring people along rather than dictating from above. Frame new ideas as proposals for feedback rather than rigid mandates. "What do you think about trying X?" garners more buy-in than "This is what we're doing." When suggestions inevitably get pushback, avoid becoming defensive. Listen to concerns and incorporate advice where possible. You can adjust proposals into cross-generational consensus with wide ownership with patience and care.

Related: 7 Common Mistakes Young Leaders Often Make but Don't Have to

3. Be humble

Another common mistake new leaders often make is displaying arrogance or behaving as if their position makes them infallible. Even the most seasoned leaders are far from perfect; everyone makes mistakes or has knowledge gaps from time to time.

The leaders who earn deep respect from their teams carry themselves with humility. They freely admit when they don't know something, have made a wrong call, and need to rely on others' expertise or experience. They don't worry about maintaining a veneer of invincibility but are comfortable acknowledging their humanity. This humility engenders loyalty and trust.

So, to avoid falling into the trap of thinking, you must always project self-assuredness. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know" or "I was wrong" - people will appreciate your honesty. Seek mentors who can provide wise counsel when you feel in your head. And when someone points out an error, thank them for their honesty. The ability to be humble smooths over many a rocky transition into leadership.

4. Lead by example

As the old saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words." You can discuss integrity, work ethic, compassion, or any other virtue until you're blue. Still, if people don't see you actively modeling these qualities, they won't take you seriously as a leader. To earn genuine respect, you have to lead by example every single day.

That means when you expect your team to go the extra mile on a project, you should be the one working late to get it over the finish line. When you call for ethical behavior, you must demonstrate unimpeachable conduct. If you want people to keep upbeat during stressful times, you have to radiate positivity and grace under pressure. Only through practicing what you preach will you gain credibility.

This also means holding yourself to your team's same (or higher) standards. Nothing erodes respect faster than a "do as I say, not as I do" mentality. If you enforce strict rules or high-performance expectations on others, you better abide by them and meet them. Earning respect requires leading from the front lines, not preaching from on high.

Related: Here Are the Key Traits of a Top-Tier People Leader

5. Credit others, take blame

There is nothing more infuriating than a leader taking credit when things go well and blaming others when they go poorly. The opposite approach garners deep appreciation. Make a habit of highlighting colleagues' contributions to each success. At the same time, take personal responsibility for setbacks. Shield the team from criticism and adversity. This demonstrates loyalty and builds lasting trust. Leaders who share the praise and shoulder the blame earn enduring respect.

Of course, listening, humility, and leading by example alone won't guarantee you become a respected leader overnight. It takes time to change opinions and cement trust. But committing yourself to these principles from your earliest days on the job puts you on a solid path.

And here's one final piece of advice: don't get discouraged if you stumble now and then in practicing these strategies. Leading people is tremendously hard work; there will always be bumps and missteps. The key is to be reflective, admit mistakes, keep growing, and move forward. By persistently working to improve in the areas above, you will gradually earn the esteem and loyalty of those around you.

Of course, you also need the right tools and systems to empower you and your team to excel. That's why I recommend considering Hana Retail for your retail POS system. Hana Retail provides real-time data and insights, automation capabilities and omnichannel functionality in one flexible cloud platform.
Murali Nethi

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO & Founder

Murali K. Nethi is the founder and CEO of SnapBlooms, a flower-delivery marketplace. His 24-plus-year background in enterprise architecture and IT allows him to explore business solutions in the retail industry.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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