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  • Yana Maeva

7 early leadership mistakes I made that you can easily avoid



When I was 22 years old, I got my first managerial position, HRD. Surprisingly, at the time I was very ashamed to tell others what I was doing. I truly believed that being a woman in leadership would bring me more judgment and unsolicited advice than respect and trust.


When I gave a speech about my new role in front of more than 50 manufacturing plant employees, I could almost hear the voices in their heads:

  • she’s too young, how did she deserve it? Is she privileged or what?

  • she’ll never manage, she has no experience

  • why should I listen to her, I’ve been here 10 years more than she did

To prove that I'm not worthless, I worked hard, including weekends, and didn't take a vacation for 5 years. You know... Some people say to their ex-partners, "I gave you the best years of my life"- I could say that about my job. :)


As a result, instead of serving others, I was constantly trying to protect myself (from myself?) and ended up hating my job after 5 years.


That was my experience, and I wouldn't change it. And if you are thinking about taking a leadership position, my findings may resonate with you as well.

1. Don’t be the smartest person in the room.


Give others a chance to be heard and feel valued. I believe that a good leader is someone who walks into a room and makes people feel better, more creative, and freer, rather than shrinking down, sitting and listening. And you can't know everything, obviously.


2. Ask for help.


I was always very afraid that if I asked for help, my colleagues would judge me for not being competent enough. See point 1 - you can't know everything! I am very grateful to those who shared their knowledge with me and took the time to teach me about subjects I had no idea about.


3. Offer help.


Don't forget that we are all different, and we have a great ability to complement each other. The areas in which your colleagues may be weak maybe your greatest strengths. And don't forget that you're not the only one who doesn't like to ask for help, so offer it more.


4. Collaborate more, compete less.


It took me years to understand why it was so hard for me to work with other women. Subconsciously I perceived them as competitors, not as companions. Was it helpful? No. Partnering with others will lead to great synergy.

5. Set realistic goals or negotiate them.


If I looked at the KPIs I had 7-8 years ago now, I would laugh. It was easy for me to commit to what was unattainable in order to please my managers. And every time, I felt like a failure. What's worse is that my team was involved in achieving those goals, too.

6. Trust consciously


The books say that leaders must do everything possible to get people to trust them. But what about the opposite?

When you micromanage your people, they feel distrusted and don't take responsibility. When you trust them, they will openly share ideas and opinions, which will lead to great results.


7. Know your "why".

What is your true reason for becoming a leader?

If it's money, influence, or recognition, you might want to wait a bit longer to step into a leadership role - you won't get very far on your ego. But it can all be a result of what you do. Serve and develop the people you work with. Focus on the process. Learn patience and resilience. And you will get results.

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