People are People

The perception a recent graduate has of those in leadership positions is similar to the perception that freshman have of seniors.  Both the recent graduate and the freshman look up to those in positions of seniority.  This makes sense - those more senior have had more experiences and have proven that they belong in that position.  But, I’ve also found that being more junior can also introduce a sense of fear of an individual in a leadership position.  With the power of retrospect, I realized there is no reason to fear other individuals because

people are people.

Difference Between Entry-Level and Leadership

When you boil it down, there are a few key differences between entry-level employees and those in leadership positions:

  • Experience.  Those in leadership positions have worked their way into their current role through various experiences throughout their career.  Entry-level employees, of course, don’t have any relevant work experience yet.
  • Confidence.  Connected to experience, leaders have the confidence to back up their thoughts and decisions.  They leverage their past experiences, successes, and failures to guide decision making.  They make strong, confident decisions to move forward.  Entry-level employees may lack confidence in making bigger decisions as a result of a lack of experience.  They also have the perception of “being the new guy” and use that as an excuse for making confident decisions.
  • Network.  Leaders have an established network at their company.  People know who they are which makes work easier to get done.  Entry-level employees are coming in with little to no connections.  They have to spend time focusing on building a strong brand so others want to work with, and potentially for, them in the future.

These differences are obvious and are present from the day you walk into the company.  Why are these differences important to take note of?  Because they give you, as an entry-level employee, an understanding of who you are working with.  Having empathy for the position a leader is in will assist you in getting to know them better and improve your working relationship.

Similarities Between Entry-Level and Leadership

While the key differences above are present in Corporate America, the similarities are equally as obvious, though not as celebrated.  Think about the CEO of your company.  Their responsibilities are vastly different than yours.  But, start small and think about similarities.  The first similarity is you are both people.  This means you have feelings, like food, and have interests outside of work. 

Though it may seem like your CEO is a genius and only cares about their job, they are a person who has interests and passions outside of work too.

Once you come to terms with the fact that everyone you work with, unless you work with actual robots, is a person, you will be able to become more comfortable around leaders and reduce any fears of them.

Why is this important?

I’ve found myself fearful of leadership at times.  They are intimidating as a result of their experience.  They can be firm with steadfast confidence.  And they can be overly-connected with their vast network.  While all of those aspects are accurate, it is important to take a step back from the Corporate America lens.  If you ever find yourself being fearful of leadership at work, think of them outside of work.  What do they like to do?  What are their passions?  This will help to humanize your colleagues and make it easier to relate, which, in turn, will make your life in the office much better.  People are people, after all, so treat and view leadership like another person rather than an intimidating corporate persona.

Comparison to Undergrad

As mentioned in the introduction, freshmen are a lot like entry-level employees with seniors being similar to leadership in Corporate America.  As a freshman, you can be intimidated by the seniors because they really know what is going on around campus.  They know how to act, where to go, what to say in certain situations, etc.  These seniors are simply “doing their job” as a senior to take advantage of the situation they are in.  Leaders in a company are doing their job as well.  People are people, no matter what the setting is - undergrad or Corporate America.

Thought Starters

  • What traits, personality quirks, or remarks of a leader has made you intimidated?    
  • How can you remove a sense of fear and intimidation from your interactions with leadership?