The Connecting Life’s Stages Series – Stage 3: The Young Leader Stage (Age 32 – 42)

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 22b
March 15, 2023

By Dan Coughlin


Group of Entrepreneurs

In the Young Leader stage, a person goes from being an assistant coach to a head coach, from a doctor to a chief surgeon, and from being an individual contributor to being a manager and an executive.

You get the idea. In this stage of life, a person receives formal leadership responsibility roles.

During the Young Pioneer Stage, a person is stepping into the unknown. That movement allows the person to find out what he or she is good at and passionate about. However, something else very important is happening. Other people are noticing what the person is good at and passionate about. In The Young Leader Stage, the intersection between a person’s understanding of himself or herself and the understanding other people have of the person produces the realities of positions of formal leadership.

Here are three important ideas to keep in mind when you are in The Young Leader Stage:

Stay True to Yourself

You’re making more money. You have a bigger title. You have people reporting to you. And with all of that people will lay expectations on you. Be this, be that, conform to what we want you to be. Some of those conforming efforts come from other people, and some come from what you think other people want you to be in this formal leadership role.

I encourage you to really consider what people are saying to you. Some of it will be valuable. Like “Don’t show up to a meeting late with a hangover,” and “Watch what you say in front of your team members away from work.” Some of it will not be helpful. Especially the advice where people want you to change the essence of who you are. Stay true to your carefully selected values, virtues, and morals. That sounds old-fashioned, and that’s okay. The one approach guaranteed to fail is the chameleon, the person who changes their essence depending on who is in the room.

There is a reason why you got this formal leadership role. The main reason is who you are as a person. Don’t suddenly become arrogant, a jerk, or an arrogant jerk. Still be kind to people. Still pay attention to details. You don’t have to drive the fanciest car or own the biggest house to be a successful Young Leader. It’s who you are as a person and how you are as a person that got you the role. Please remember that as you move through this stage of your life.

What Got You Here Isn’t Your Job Today

An often-repeated trap is the newly promoted formal leader continues to do what they did before they got promoted in terms of daily work activities. Sales managers who spend most of their time with customers instead of with the employees they are responsible for. Executives who are doing the work of front-line employees. Why does this happen?

Five reasons: I know how to do it, I’m comfortable doing it, I like doing it, I’m good at doing it, and I can do it better and faster than anyone else and so I’ll just do it myself.

Those are traps. And they can keep you from growing as a leader, and they can keep you from developing your employees.

Clarify the responsibilities you have in your new role, and focus on executing those responsibilities rather than the ones you’ve always done.

Always Keep Learning and Improving

Just because you have been promoted to a formal leadership role during this stage doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Actually, you never arrive regardless of your title, authority, income, and on and on. Stay in the habit of improving. At least once every two weeks, I encourage you to pull out a sheet of paper and answer these questions:

  1. What was my goal and what did I achieve in these two weeks?
  2. What did I do that was effective and why was it effective, and what did I do that was not effective and why was it not effective?
  3. What lessons did I learn or relearn?
  4. What will I do the same and what will I do differently the next time to try to be more effective?

Connections to Future Stages

If you are 35, look ahead 20 years. What about yourself today do you want to hold on to for the future? What about yourself do you want to change? What do you want to improve? You are not stuck at 35 forever. Do some serious reflection and discernment on what you want your future to be like, and then stay with what you want and make the adjustments on what you don’t want.

If you are 55, look back 20 years. Go back in your mind to the Young Leader Stage. Mentally wander around in it. See what your life was like. What about your 35-year-old self do you want more of in your life today? What habits have you held on to that are no longer serving you well?

Remember: you are still you. You didn’t lose that person, and become this person. Still the same person. Just be intentional about recalling what you want and what you don’t want from who you were back then.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

Back to Newsletter Page