Building Leadership Skills in Early Career Professionals: A Roadmap to Success

April 18, 2024

If you own a business, you understand the importance of excellent leadership in executive and management positions. Visionary and innovative thinkers can guide your company into the next stage of growth. Without the right leaders, you might face insurmountable competitive, financial, and talent retention challenges.

However, the development of leadership skills can be a game-changer for every level of employee. When you invest in building the leadership skills of early career professionals, you can help draw the roadmap to their success and create seamless in-house succession strategies. 

Building Leadership Skills in Early Career Professionals

Every position in your organization requires leadership skills — consider an investment in building leadership an investment in your long-term success.

Why leadership skills are important at every career level

Leadership skills create personal ownership and accountability for work and allow your employees to thrive: From entry-level roles to C-suite executives, fundamental leadership skills that will contribute to all positions and to the collective success of your organization.   

Some of the vital reasons to build these skills in early career professionals include: 

  • Motivation: 

When employees in any position know themselves and the members of their team, they recognize that what motivates people varies. They can discover how to motivate themselves and their co-workers and build an exciting and productive workplace.

  • Communication improvement:

By learning to address issues, ask questions, give positive feedback, and open lines of communication, early career professionals create a foundation for future success and learn to trust themselves and others

  • Increased productivity:

Leadership in any role also implies ownership. Build skills in new professionals that get them excited about the future, their progress, and your company’s mission.

  • Mistake reduction:  

Leadership skills can help those early in their career to identify and problem-solve mistakes that could lead to costly consequences when left ignored. By acknowledging failure and mistakes, employees can course correct and enable self-sustaining success in their future careers.

  • Growth-minded progress:

The development of leadership skills can also help early career professionals to see the big picture and build a growth mindset. By setting small, achievable goals and larger desired results, these professionals can proactively focus on a growth-minded perspective.

Leadership skills to build in employees

Leadership skills to build in your employees

So what are the leadership skills that early career professionals need? Although niche-specific skills are important, there are universal leadership traits that you can develop in your employees, too.

Some of the skills you can help develop include:

  • Engaged following:

This may sound counterintuitive, but one of the most vital leadership lessons you can teach your employees is how to be an engaged follower. The best leaders know when and how to follow and support others. “Too many chefs in the kitchen” leads to chaos and a lack of productivity.

  • Active listening:

Active listening promotes a culture of inclusivity and diversity. Early career professionals who take in feedback and ideas from those around them develop vital leadership muscles.

  • Inspiration and empowerment of others:

Teach early career professionals to celebrate the successes of their team members and your company. They can learn to be inspired and to inspire others by validating and empowering the ideas of their co-workers or anyone they manage. 

By guiding collaborative discussions, these professionals can actively listen to others and make them feel valuable. This doesn’t mean that every idea is a good idea — but all feedback is important. This leadership quality becomes more crucial to a thriving, healthy workplace as professionals rise through your ranks.

  • Innovative problem-solving:

Problem-solving and the ability to develop innovative solutions is a key trait for early career professionals and employees at any level. You don’t need to micromanage problem-solvers, and they can take these forward-thinking skills into their next position within your company.

Problem-solvers make in-house succession strategies easy.

  • Forward, visionary thinking:

Let early career professionals in on your short-term and long-term business strategies. Allow them to share your vision for the company’s future. This leadership skill will inspire the other members of your team and cultivate the future leaders of your organization.

Build leadership skills in new professionals

How to build leadership skills in new professionals

You may understand the need for leadership development for your team members who are new to their careers, but how can you intentionally build the skills they’ll need for successful leadership and succession within your company?

Here are several ways you can cultivate leadership talent in early career professionals.

Intentionally develop conflict management skills

Develop Microleadership and Ethical Leadership Skills. Microleadership is also crucial in nurturing early career professionals’ leadership skills. The effects of microleadership are profound in developing early career professionals. Employees can gradually build leadership skills and confidence by focusing on small, everyday actions. Microleadership encourages initiative and positive influence without formal authority. Ethical leadership is another vital aspect to consider. Instilling a strong sense of ethics in early career professionals ensures that they prioritize integrity, fairness, and transparency in their decision-making processes. Ethical leaders build trust within their teams and foster a culture of accountability and respect. When integrated into training programs, these two leadership approaches can significantly enhance the leadership capabilities of early career professionals, preparing them for more significant responsibilities in the future.

Give opportunities to lead

Consider allowing your early career team members to lead projects, brainstorming sessions, meetings, or discussions. This empowers your employees and helps them to realize their leadership capabilities.

Strategically implement feedback and reflection exercises

Frequent performance reviews or one-on-one meetings with management are fantastic ways to develop an early professional’s ability to digest constructive feedback. Encourage them to identify and communicate their own strengths and areas for improvement. This can help increase confidence levels and allow employees to take charge of their own growth.

Encourage collaboration and teamwork  

When you can assign team projects where each member is invested in the success of the individual as well as the collective whole, do so. Future, successful company leaders will celebrate achievements — regardless of how great or small — and will give collaborative efforts credit. 

This fosters a sense of value in each team member and instills instinctive collaboration in leadership development.

Cultivate innovative decision-making and problem-solving skills 

Teach your early career professionals vital methods to make decisions and solve problems. Allow them to arrive at creative solutions and build strategies to address the issues at hand while also progressing toward your company’s big-picture goals.

This helps people early in their careers to develop a growth mindset and to look at challenges from every angle. By growing these skills in your future leaders, you might find reduced employee frustration and increased productivity.  

The benefits of creating new leaders 

A recent survey by Gallup found that although great professional leaders are rare, they tend to have a lot of qualities in common. 

By building leadership skills in your early career professionals, you not only ensure you have high-quality candidates for your future succession planning, but that you’ve created leaders who add the following benefits:

  • Promotion of an accountability culture
  • Employee motivation
  • Focused mission
  • Forward-thinking vision
  • Fostered trust
  • High-level communication skills
  • Avoidance of office politics
  • Increased team productivity
  • Overcoming challenges
  • Innovative and successful solutions
  • Talent retention

According to the 2023 Global Leadership Forecast, many modern companies struggle to build effective leaders, and existing corporate leaders may find it difficult to build trust with employees. However, by developing excellent leadership skills early on in the professional careers of your employees, you can avoid these struggles. 

Remember, effective leaders are the roadmap to the success of your company. 

Ryan Niddel is the CEO of MIT45, serves on the board of multiple successful companies, and is considered Ohio’s top growth specialist. If you’re ready to take your business to the next level and utilize breakthrough thinking to transform your company, connect with him today.