5 Leadership Tips for Young People Living with Disability
Hi I’m Kathryn and I would consider myself a young leader. Before I get started on my leadership tips, we should define what leadership is and what being a young leader truly means. There is no universal term for leadership, however, I like to define a leader as a person who acts to serve others and uses their abilities to empower and motivate their peers and community.
I’ve been developing my leadership skills over the past five years and here are five lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
1. Don’t be afraid to speak up
It’s so important as a young leader to be confident and speak up. Being confident isn’t always about having the most thought out or ground-breaking idea, but rather, speaking from your experience and knowledge. Someone once told me ‘you’re always the most knowledgeable person in the room on at least one topic’ and I fundamentally agree with that. I’ve been in several meetings where I’ve been the least experienced by decades and I know how nerve racking that can be! However, as young leaders we have the ability to use this to our advantage. Recently, during a professional meeting, I used my unique perspective as a young person to change their course of action for the better. My contribution didn’t use the most sophisticated language and wasn’t the most thought out but I was still praised for my input and was able to positively influence the group.
2. Be confident – but not arrogant
It is important as young leaders to be confident in our abilities and knowledge – but also be humble. You can do this by recognising the contributions of others. In EYDN board meetings I provide my opinion and thoughts but also acknowledge each great idea the team comes up with and thank them for their contributions.
Being a young leader doesn’t mean I’m the star of the show, rather it’s about empowering my team to know their abilities as young leaders too. This includes encouraging other board members to take up youth opportunities they would be great for based on their experiences and strengths.
3. Don’t overcommit
As young leaders it can be tempting say ‘yes’ to everything that comes our way, whether it be a committee, a project or work. It’s easy to think ‘the more I’m involved in, the better my leadership journey’. However, I’ve noticed that when I take on more than I can handle, while trying to maintain my overall health (see step 5 on self care), I’m not only doing a disservice to myself but others as well.
In the last few years, I’ve learned it’s much better to say ‘no’ to opportunities that:
a) I know I’m not the best person for
b) require more time than I can give, or
c) conflict with other projects or groups I have committed to.
By overcommitting and spreading ourselves too thin we are less able to offer quality contributions. Now when opportunities come my way I don’t say yes straight away. I think about whether it’s something I am truly passionate about, if I can make a good contribution and if someone in my team may be a better fit. This has been really positive for me as I’ve learned it’s okay to say ‘no’ to things and allows me to give my all to the opportunities I have committed to.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Something I’ve learned is to never be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions has many benefits including:
· expanding your knowledge
· using your new knowledge to make informed decisions, and
· showing your communication partners you’re interested
As young people it can be scary to ask questions as you might think it makes you look incompetent but trust me, those around you will likely be thankful! Your question could facilitate further discussion, build greater understanding among your peers and lead to better decision making.
5. Practice self-care
Self-care is one of those words you hear thrown around a lot but it really is important for young leaders. Looking after yourself doesn’t have to include a bubble bath or doing yoga – it’s whatever works for you. For me, self-care is playing with my cat, enjoying hobbies and doing the things I love.
In the past I’ve been so caught up juggling various things that I didn’t take time for myself. Now, at least once a week I schedule in that time. This allows me to reflect, respect my limits and avoid burn out - and I am a better leader for it!
Kathryn Mills - EYDN Board President