27. Februar 2024

Emerging leadership: Challenges for Young Leaders

Flemming Kühl im Nordic Minds Trikot
Image: Floorball Deutschland

Leaders don't emerge fully formed. They develop and grow over time, they make mistakes, they fail, they succeed. This journey is a crucial part of emerging leadership. 


Now more than ever, there's a pressing need for inspired up-and-coming leaders who can bridge divides and drive tangible change. Passionate and dedicated rising leaders are defining a new era of compassionate and purpose-driven emerging leadership. 


Effective leaders guide organizations, inspire employees to meet goals, and drive growth, innovation, and a positive company culture. They are key in achieving the organization's mission and vision. And emerging leaders are the rejuvenation of this resource.


So how and where does a leader start their journey? 


Flemming Kühl is in his mid-twenties and plays in the German national floorball team. He spent two years as a player in Switzerland and got educated as an athletic coach by @Zone4Performance at the same time. Now he has taken on a leadership role as an athletic coach and important player for the ETV Piranhhas in Hamburg. As a young leader, he's uniquely positioned to share is insights and fresh leadership perspectives. 


Challenges for Young Leaders 


"I think the biggest or hardest challenge is that of authority. If I'm the same age or even younger than the team, it's certainly not an easy step to take," Flemming says. "In a sports team like ours, there is also the separation of being a leader on and off the field and player. Sometimes it's not easy to decide whether to act as a leader or as a friend and fellow player."


This is a very common issue in junior leadership.


"I can remember a few situations where it wasn't easy to bring all the opinions, demands, or wishes of the team with so many different characters down to a common denominator," Flemming recalls. "Open communication and putting yourself in the shoes of other people and roles is crucial here."


Another challenge that young leaders often face is a lot of pressure. And that doesn't necessarily always come from external sources. 


"I tend to put pressure on myself. As much time and energy as I invest in the sport, I expect the according performance from myself," says Flemming Kühl about leadership challenges for young professionals. "I want to be the best I can be, and I don't listen to what others say or expect or don't expect. Nobody has such high expectations of me as I have of myself."


Although high self-expectations are a valid way to grow, they can carry the danger of causing overwhelm. It's important to give yourself room to experiment, fail, and learn – not exclusively, but especially at the beginning of your leadership journey.


Don't forget: a leader is never alone. "There were situations where I wasn't at all satisfied with my own performance and had the feeling that I had let my team down," says Flemming. "Sometimes it helps to remember that you're not alone and that you win – or lose – as a team."


Emerging Leadership Skills


All leaders must show that they are competent in order to earn their teams' trust and respect. This is even more relevant in the case of young and emerging leadership. 


"If my team sees that I invest a lot of time and that the team's success is my priority, it's easier to lead," Flemming explains


Without that trust, there is no effective leadership. This is why trust is absolutely essential, as Flemming knows, "In my opinion, trust is earned with a high level of motivation, maximum commitment, and an open manner and friendly interaction. Ultimately, it's simply a matter of doing your job properly and reliably."


And there are a few essential things that help doing just that, "Communication, empathy and self-reflection are also crucial. The team comes before yourself."


The Importance of Setting Goals


Emerging leadership thrives on the foundation of well-defined goals, as they provide direction and motivation for a new generation of leaders navigating new challenges.


"I have set myself very high goals for the season", Flemming says. "I don't want to go into too much detail, but as I mentioned, I expect a lot from myself, and I judge myself on measurable goals such as scoring points."


But that's only half the picture, as the Piranhha's athletic coach and player well knows. "It's more important that we are successful as a team and that the mood in the team is good," he says. "As part of the team, I want to make sure that all players feel comfortable and that we work hard together to achieve our goals."


Putting the team first is the key indicator for an emerging great leader. 


"As a coach, I always want to develop myself further and ensure that everyone can work towards their goals in the best possible way and that I give them the best possible support," Flemming Kühl says. "As a leader, I want to continue to invest everything I have to be the best I can be, so that I can pull other players along and make them better and justify my expectations of others."


Integrity and authenticity are the key to successful emerging leadership – then age and experience aren't a hindrance at all.


Flemming has valuable advice for young leadership growth and development: "Set an example of what you expect from others, treat everyone with respect, be friendly and take care of the team, reflect on yourself, formulate your goals and give your all to achieve them."