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Dear 20-Something Leader: You Need These 5 Lessons (Even If You Think You Don’t)

Lately, I’ve been thinking about some leadership lessons. You know … the “I wish I knew then what I know now” kind of stuff.

See, I’ve had a lot more time to think recently. That is thanks to my wife for registering me for a triathlon this fall. She said it was something that “we could do together.” She’s the one who races in the family. I’m the one who visited five different Starbucks cheering her on while she ran the Chicago Marathon.

But it’s been interesting, as I’ve been training, how many of my experiences have paralleled lessons that young leaders need to internalize and learn early, or risk potentially derailing their leadership journey before it really gets going.

So, in no particular order, here are Five Leadership Lessons for Young Leaders based on my experiences training for a triathlon.

1. Young leaders have a tendency to overestimate their capacity.

When I started training for this triathlon, I thought I’d pick it right up. After all, I played varsity sports throughout high school, have been pretty active as an adult, and heck, I even lift weights pretty regularly. Well, that was before I got in the pool and almost swallowed half of the water as I attempted to swim laps.

Young leaders are notorious for believing they can do more than they actually can.

If you’re a young leader and ready to change the world, don’t be discouraged; it may be in there, it just needs to be developed over time. You’re not nearly as good as you’re going to be if you keep working on it over time.

2. Young leaders need to learn internal fortitude is the muscle of leadership.

I’ve got to be honest. There are days I don’t feel like training … I’d rather sleep. And there are moments when I’m running, or biking, or swimming that I’d rather just stop.

But I don’t. And if you’re a young leader, you need to soak this next statement in.

The will to keep moving forward in the face of adversity, to find a way when there doesn’t seem to be a way, this is what separates “Big L” leaders from the weekend warriors.

Not a lot of people will say this, this way, but there are a lot of ridiculously talented leaders out there (more talented than me) that fell by the wayside because they simply lacked the internal fortitude to take another step forward. They allowed their leadership muscle to atrophy.

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Paul Alexander, a ministry consultant at the Unstuck Group and has more than 20 years of experience serving in the local church. He has served on the Sr. Leadership Teams of some of the nation’s leading mega-churches. Currently, Paul is serving as the Executive Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multi-site church located in the Phoenix area.