At a coffee shop in 2015, shortly after graduating from college, I sat down to breakfast with an executive whose values, integrity and wisdom changed my thoughts on what leadership means.
Nervous but excited, I asked him “What does it take to become an executive?” It was a conversation I’ll never forget and I’m now lucky to call him my friend.
We live in a competitive job landscape and there are many hurdles between college graduation and a role as an executive. With the downturn in the oil and gas industry, it takes resilience, intelligence and adaptability to rise to the top. His example and advice truly inspire me and I hope that his advice inspires you as well.
Here are four of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from him.
- Be Generous.
While it may sound counterintuitive, this executive taught me that leadership is about service. The best and most successful leaders empower others to grow and rise with them. Be generous with your time and knowledge. By having a service-oriented attitude, you demonstrate your ability to lead, teach, provide and, ultimately, draw out the best in others.
- Create Your Own Luck.
One of the tough truths about rising into leadership is that there is a certain element of luck: being in the right place at the right time with the right skill set. You are still your own best agent of change. As the saying goes, luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Oil and gas is a relationship-driven business. Invest the time and effort in relationship development. Attend conferences, acquire a mentor, meet as many people as you can, and maintain these relationships. In the executive’s words, “I didn’t get to where I am without help from others.”
While some of these relationships may not seem valuable at the time you initiate them, you never know where people will be in three, five or even ten years. With a little luck and perfect timing, investing in relationships now will provide you with advancement opportunities in the future.
- Be Flexible.
The oil and gas industry is always changing with technology advancing and companies making strategic acquisitions– are you prepared to capitalize on new opportunities as they arise? Grow by getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Stepping out of your comfort zone is never easy and it may require learning a new skill, confronting new challenges, residing in a different country, meeting new people, or even acquiring a new opportunity with a new company. The more diverse your skill set is, the most likely you are to be effective in a wide variety of situations, a key leadership trait.
- Differentiate Yourself.
Knowledge is power in our business. The more knowledge you have, the more valuable you become. Gain certifications, Learn different technologies. Study what competitors are doing because executives know that intelligence can be the difference between success and failure. Finally, learn to speak another language. With the oil and gas industry seeing greater diversity than ever before, it’s to your benefit understand a different language whether it be Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese or Arabic. Achieving basic business proficiency in these languages will open up new opportunities and could even lead to work overseas, a horizon expanding experience that bolsters your leadership credentials.
We Millennials can learn from individuals like this who inspire change in others and carve a path for future leaders like us to follow. Take notice, be patient and be humble. One day you just may be an inspiration for someone like yourself.
Your move, future leaders!