By Stan Garber, president at Scout RFP.
When you think about the archetypal C-level executive, someone under the age of 30 probably isn't the first person who comes to mind. However, as more and more young entrepreneurs are starting companies or quickly moving up the ranks, the C-suite seems to be aging backward. Many baby boomers are moving toward retirement, and members of Generation X are watching as millennials take on the C-suite, especially in the tech scene.
While emerging leaders shake up the workplace status quo, there are some challenges that come with being young and in charge. I've hit the 30 milestone and have come into my own as a member of the C-suite, but there was a lot that I had to learn when I took on an executive role at my first startup at the ripe old age of 17. Here are a few tips I've picked up about how to hold your own when you're under 30 in the C-suite:
New to C-suite life? I recommend you start your new position by reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. You'd never guess that this book is over 80 years old; it's still extremely relevant to today's leadership environment and helps you shift your mindset in a way that will help you overcome challenges and manage people more effectively. Also, don't be afraid to find a mentor. Just because you're an exec doesn't mean you can't learn from someone else. No matter what level you land in a company, there are always new opportunities for growth -- and being humble enough to recognize that is one of the best ways to keep progressing.
Play the Part
This may seem obvious, but as they say, first impressions are the most lasting. Dress for success; match your appearance with your confidence and show that you're there to be present and serious. Also, act your age. Don't try to "age up" too much -- you've made it to this level for a reason! Draw from insights based on the generation you grew up in and don't be afraid to speak up. It can be tough when certain conversations show your age (or lack thereof), but acknowledging and embracing these moments is more effective than trying to pretend you're someone you're not.
Always Leave Stakeholders Confident in Your Abilities
Don't let your reputation be that you're just another talking head. When you find yourself in front of a new audience -- whether you're meeting with investors, internal staff or potential customers -- take it as an opportunity to create a memorable impression. Even if you aren't running the meeting itself, always leave the audience with something to chew on at the end. Once you've made that initial impression, take the time for a personal follow-up to prove your commitment to the relationship.
If I've learned anything, it's that when it comes to successful leadership within a business, age doesn't have to be a factor. As someone who dove into entrepreneurship in his teens, I can safely say that every day in the business world is a learning experience -- and if you embrace and take advantage of that, you can thrive at any age. If you have the skills to move the company in a profitable direction, the confidence to manage others effectively, and the humility to keep yourself learning, you are in good shape to succeed as a C-suite executive.
Stan Garber is the president at Scout RFP and sets the marketing and growth strategy.