Leadership & CareersNews & Opinion

Leading youngsters to success

A reflection on modern leadership

Professional service firms generally do a good job of technical training. They’ve been doing it for years and, frankly, the team demands it. Moreover, their professional memberships depend on hitting a certain number of CPD points over a certain period of time.

Yet, we know that’s not the only ingredient for success. When you hear the phrase “soft skills,” what comes to mind? Business writing? Leadership training? Maybe even listening skills. If you’re fortunate enough to work at a place like ours, you might get exposed to all of that and more.

But it’s not enough. We believe there’s another glaring impediment to success, and we think it’s our responsibility (and that of our peers in the professions) to help our young professionals overcome it.

“It” is the negative stress they may feel as their level of responsibility increases in line with the growth in their technical ability. At some point, they will find themselves on the front line. The stakes are now higher, and there is nowhere left to “hide.” They are being asked to deal directly with clients, provide advice, or complete a piece of work that’s outside their comfort zone.

Now, there’s nothing new about that. That’s the way it has always been. However, the world around us has changed. Among other factors, this is a generation that has grown up with social media and the risk of very public failure. For a perfectionist (and the professions attract them), that can be very daunting.

When translated to the workplace, it can result in a crushing fear of failure. A fear that can paralyze the budding professional and threaten their progression (it would be unfair to put them into a position of even greater stress without the mechanisms to cope with that stress).

Our view? It’s our responsibility to help them overcome that, and it calls for a coaching style of leadership. Yes, it’s hard and time-consuming because each individual is different (and expects to be treated that way), but we believe it’s the commitment required of the modern leader. Whether you agree with us or not, we hope we have at least made you think about your leadership.


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Neil Parker
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