What Advice Would You Give to a Future Leader?

It’s that time of year again when famous leaders get a few minutes to talk directly to future leaders.

I’m talking of course about the commencement or graduation address. Post-secondary institutions all over the world invite famous politicians, artists, titans of commerce, professional athletes and philanthropists to address a graduating class and pass on a few words of wisdom.

I’ve been in the leadership industry pretty much my whole career, and there is certainly no shortage of people who are willing to share their earned wisdom about how to be successful in business and happy in life. There is also no shortage of ideas, models and theories about leadership and how to become a great leader.

Such has been the case this year. Here’s a quick summary of ideas shared over the past few weeks that I found to be really interesting.

As I reflected on the wisdom shared by this diverse group of leaders, I couldn’t help get energized myself. So, I asked myself, “What advice would I give to today’s graduates?” I thought about this a lot in the past week and came up with this:

Be mindful about the individual leader or manager you choose to work for. In my experiences, and in hearing from leaders I’ve worked with, the person you choose to work for is a critical leadership decision. While you may possess strong leadership attributes yourself, they will either be amplified by a great leader, or suppressed by a weak or mediocre leader.

Great leaders will unleash your potential. They will actively look for ways to give you exposure to senior leaders of the company. They will coach you, give you the tough feedback when you need it, and they will always be in your corner. These are the things you need to be looking for in the leaders you choose to work for. If you aren’t convinced that a prospective manager or leader will do these things for you, then my advice to you is to run, and run fast.

Now I know this advice may not be as motivational or inspiring as some of the great ideas shared above, but it is rooted in the real world. And when I think about a new generation of future leaders being unleashed on world, I can’t help but feel that this advice could make or break their career paths.

What would you say to a graduating class in a commencement speech? What insights would you share with them? Let me know. I will collect the ideas and share them in a future blog.

This week’s Gut Check for Leaders asks: What advice would you give a future leader?

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