The Millennial Leader: Teachable

In reflecting on all the wisdom poured out to me in the last four college years as I start post-grad life, one of the most memorable pieces of advice came from two women, Kitty and Shelley, who mentored me over the years and gave me a Christ-like example to follow.

All leaders should be F.A.T: Faithful, Available and Teachable.

The characteristics were geared towards "mentorees", if you will, when I heard them- but I have found that young leaders need them just as much. When leaders are composed of these three qualities, they provide a safe space to gain the respect of others through how they live their own lives. And since it isn't always obvious how to practically live each of these out, I'm going to share some ways that have helped me grow and also ways that I want to grow- starting with teachable because that's the one of the three that I feel I have the best grasp on.

The teachable leader...

1. Goes in as a learner
When I started as a manager at Macy's last summer, I was not only the youngest (aside from maybe five associates) but also the least experienced of the entire 140 person staff. Needless to say, I was not welcomed with open arms by everyone- which was fine with me. I knew that associates who had been there for ten years did not want some twenty-something telling them what to do, and I barely even knew what I was doing! While it's imperative to still maintain the presence of an authority, letting the associates teach me made a world of difference. It was helpful to me and empowering to them- a win/win. It made them feel like assets and gave me a path to earn their respect.

2. Asks and listens
About their activities that day, about their weekend, about the people they're close to, about what they enjoy in their free time. Asking questions and actively listening can make the difference between a surface level relationship and one that has depth. To be known is one of the greatest gifts God gives us, and our ability to give it to others should not be wasted. If you can remember important events that have happened recently in their lives and follow up with them about them, that's even better. When leaders have done that to me it's meant the world that I was valued enough in their eyes for them to keep me in mind.

3. Is quick to own up to mistakes
Making mistakes is inevitable with anyone you're leading. You're going to forget, mislead and say something wrong even if your intentions are good. People lose trust easily, and if mistakes aren't brought into the light by you, you're going to have to work a lot harder to gain it back. In my job last summer there was a day I wasn't completely honest about how much work I'd gotten done and left it for someone else. I tried to cover it up but my associates were sharp and saw through it (and were not happy about it). I spent my shift praying every time I went up and down the elevator what I should do before I finally went up to the associates to confess and apologize. Because I'd already been working to build those relationships (and prayed for a lot of grace), they accepted my apology and ended with, "You know we said we'd always have your back".

4. Is hungry for knowledge
In any leadership position, there will be questions you don't have the answer to. But a good leader is eager to learn in order to close that gap as much as possible. That way you can serve  the people you're leading best. Whether you're listening to podcasts, reading books, being mentored, going over handbooks multiple times or praying for wisdom in future situations, doing your part to soak up as much information as you can on the front end will help you when you're faced with tough situations.

Being taught can be humbling, but in the long run I've had much more respect for my humble, approachable leaders and longed to be in their presence because what they've exuded has seemed attainable. Strive to be a leader that is unwilling to let pride stand in the way of being boldly authentic and honest.

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