Advice for Young Leaders

Are you working on your “who” or your “what?”


In this video, author Brad Lomenick addresses how to develop a leadership legacy – starting before you’ve even begun your career. For young people, Brad suggests three key steps:

1. Say “yes” to as many opportunities as possible.

2. Work on your “who” long before you start working on your “what.” People will begin to define you by your who (your character and values).

3. Remember that the legacy you leave at the end of your life is being established as early as your 20s—maybe even earlier.

Watch the video to learn more about how to develop as a young leader.

Well especially if a young leader is in school, or in their early 20s, I would say the first thing is say yes. And when you're in the early part of your career, you're trying to figure out what you want to do in life, you're graduating, just say yes.

So many times we get to that point and we think we have to have it all figured out, which is crazy. Even the idea that we have to go as an 18 year old and show up in a college or university setting and know our major. And that's going to define us for the next 40-50 years. That's too much pressure. So say yes.

If an internship shows up, Danielle sitting over here as an intern, say yes. If an opportunity to travel shows up, say yes. If a chance to move to New York City shows up, say yes. And what it does is it allows your yes's to actually give you permission to pursue what the ultimate yes should be in your life. And the more things you say yes to, the more likely you'll keep moving towards whatever your calling or sense of purpose is in life.

And so many times we say no because we're trying to find that one thing but the people I've been around and seem to be really content with purpose and calling and that sense of sweet spot in life. They've found it because they kept saying yes to things that many times led them to the next thing.

Another thing I would say is work on your "who" way before you start work on your "what" early in life. And if you'll work on the foundation of who you are as a leader in your early parts of your journey, that will help you to find the "what" that results from that. And lots of time, again we're so focused on the what. "What are you going to do with your life? What are you going to major in? What is your first job going to be?"

And that is important, but "who" is the character. It's the integrity, it's the discipline, it's a sense of that I know who I am, it's self-awareness, it's authenticity. And the "who," the deeper your "who" roots go, the more fruit your "what" will create. So the deeper your "who" roots go, the more fruit your "what" will create.

Many of us get to the middle of life and sometimes even the second half of life and we've allowed our "what" to define us instead of our "who." And I would say that starting with your "who" will always end up giving you a clear sense of what your "what" should be.

And last thing again early in life is start thinking about legacy. So I had a mentor when I was working on a ranch in Colorado just after college, and the founder of this place was a guy named Bob Foster, and he was 75 and I was 25 and he would mentor me. So every Friday morning we would have breakfast. We would sit overlooking the mountains behind us, and in front of us, and truly majestic. And he would say, "Brad your 20s establish your 70s. Your 20s establish your 70s."

And he would say this constantly and it started to sink in for me that the man or woman that we become when were 75 is the man or woman we're becoming when we are 25. And so many times as a young knucklehead at 22 or 23 or 25, we're not thinking about legacy because that's what old people think about. That's what you think about when you start thinking about death. And I would argue that if you think about how you want to finish, why you're starting, you have a greater chance of actually achieving that.

Brad Lomenick

Brad Lomenick is a strategic advisor, coach, and leadership consultant specializing in influence, innovation, generational issues, creativity and business strategy. He is a sought-after speaker at conferences, churches and colleges as...

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