When I was just 23 years old, fresh out of submarine school, I was given my first leadership job.
I was assigned to lead the team of sailors who maintained and operated the complex systems that controlled the nuclear reactor on the USS Tennessee. It was a small group led by a senior enlisted sailor, a Chief Petty Officer, who had come up through the ranks.
The Chief Petty Officer was not only skilled, but he was also highly experienced. He had been in the Navy for almost as many years as I had been alive. He was older than me and had infinitely more knowledge in the maintenance and operation of nuclear reactor controls. And the team looked to him for guidance.
Yet, I was in charge.
Many new leaders find themselves in this exact situation. They are asked to lead teams of older, more experienced employees.Many new leaders find themselves in this exact situation. They are asked to lead teams of older, more experienced employees. Click To Tweet
So, how can you be an effective leader if you’re young and inexperienced? It’s simple.
Find your Chief and learn from them.
You’re probably thinking – How do I find my Chief? In the Navy it was easy but how do I find my Chief in a business environment? Look for the person in the organization who is the opinion leader. Usually, they are a senior employee and a technical expert.
Find out who the team naturally goes to for all the answers.Find out who the team naturally goes to for all the answers. Click To Tweet
That person is your Chief.
That’s the person you want to build a relationship with and learn from. In most cases, they don’t want your job, they are happy being the senior, technical expert. If you show them respect and learn from them, you will become a more effective leader for the team.
Listen to my conversation with retired Chief Petty Officer, Chuck Whitworth on the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast to understand the important relationship between the Leader and the Chief.
And, if you need more ideas on how to be an effective leader, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas on how you can become a more effective leader.
Photo: USS Key West Chief of the Boat Master Chief Nicholas Harr (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger)