Much of what I practice in both leadership and technology roles, I first learned early in my career. In fact, the early years of my career formed the lens through which I view most of my professional perspectives. While I have grown, adapted and expanded many perspectives since those formative years, I was fortunate to receive outstanding guidance for my foundation.
After college, I joined the Career Development Program at Air Products & Chemicals. This program focused on the careers of the individual employee first, with the understanding that the company’s investment in them would benefit the company in the long run. Members of the program were expected to fill three different roles in the company over three years. The emphasis was on gaining a broad experience, enabling better management and leadership decisions. The result is an extreme investment in the employee and a well rounded future leader. My current employer, Whirlpool, has a similar program.
More important than the experience of these programs though, is the culture of the organization. Any company can design a similar program and still teach the employees terrible values or ethics. Fortunately, the investment in employees was genuine in my experience. In fact, Air Products was my first experience with servant leadership principles. If I had instead worked for a company with poor leadership I may have received an entirely different perspective.
My fear today is the number of students working for organizations with toxic leadership. These organizations do not focus on the careers of employees. Instead, these organizations preach abandonment of sustainable success in exchange for short term wins. At these early points in their careers, young employees may perceive this is how business is done. They could not be further from the truth though: this is what is causing our businesses to fail. This is the failure of modern corporations to invest in our futures – our people – our next generation of leaders.
And if we do not invest in the next generation, who will?
For the Career Starter
Whether you are about to graduate or are simply early in your career, please consider this: the formative years are critical to
your OUR success. So, please, invest those years wisely. If an employer does not value you and your peers in these ways, leave. Great companies, willing to invest in you, are out there. While the pickings may be slim today, it’s worth the wait and the investment to find the right employer.
For the Seasoned Professional
If you were fortunate to have a great experience, you owe it to those who served you, to pass it on. The fate of our future business success rests in the hands of those willing to serve the next generation of leaders. You are among them. If not you, who?
In contrast, perhaps you did not receive such a good experience. Perhaps you were trained in the dark arts of toxic leadership. Don’t worry. The very fact you are reading this means there is hope yet. We learn something from every leader we follow – either leadership we seek to emulate or leadership we refuse to proliferate. Your experience must be turned into the latter. Let the toxic chain stop with you. Raise the next generation of leaders with servant leadership principles.
I was one of the lucky ones. I landed a position with an organization that invested in me and my career. They taught me servant leadership. I wish you the same.
Question: What other components are important to someone starting their career?