How Young Leaders Can Get Ahead

Thirty days after I turned 12, my mother sat me down in the living room to have a very adult conversation with me. She said, “Hijo, next week I will drive you over to the farm and you will begin working in the fields. You will have to get up early before the sun comes up and I will pick you up in the afternoon after the harvest time is over.”

I didn’t really know what that all entailed, but after having to get up on the first day at 4:00AM, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into. Picking strawberries in the summer in Oregon sounds pretty romantic, but cold mornings, long days, and PB&J for lunch every day is a less than thrilling experience. Plus, I was horrible at picking strawberries; I was the worst strawberry picker they had hired that summer and probably the worst one in the history of that farm. After a few weeks, one of the farm managers said, “Hey Gus, we like you, but we don’t like the way you work.” Yikes!


Working hard- A skill worth having

Aside from the fact that I almost lost my job at 12 years old, I made $180.00 dollars that summer and to this day, I still don’t think I’ve spent it. I always make sure my bank account doesn’t go below $180.00. But really, I earned a lot more than the money I made that summer. I earned a sense of the importance of hard work. And that is what I truly feel is not being communicated to the older generations. I say communicated because I feel that while Gen X and Y are truly hard workers, the message they communicate is perceived much differently. The younger leaders of today are quite frankly a lot more demanding. They want more time off to spend with their family, want a work-life balance that allows them to work from home from time to time, and want autonomy in their roles.  These are the same people who saw their mothers and fathers work for a company their whole lives only to be laid off and left on unemployment. So, I don’t blame them (myself).

Established leaders in the organization want to hear this: “I will work for it.” That’s what they were told as young leaders and it embodies the values they hold on to dearly. So give it the good ol’ college try. You will be surprised at what opportunities may be given to you if the boss knows you’re going to give it all you got.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at

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