Leadership from the perspective of a young employee
I am Matthieu Van der Poorten, a 22 year old intern at HR² Systems. When I was asked if I was comfortable with writing this article on leadership, I was excited to grasp the opportunity to write about my views on the topic. But there was also a lot of doubt, what was my view on leadership? What kinds of leadership have I experienced? What do I believe to be the best way to lead?
My first business related experience with leadership was in the form of a student job I did when I was 16. I was helping in a supermarket, specifically the vegetable and fruit isles. This first job was exactly how I imagined work life to be with a boss that fit the stereotype. The boss that tells you what to do, how to do it and when to do it. No room for any input from my side, do as you’re being told. This didn’t bother me at the time as that was the expectation going into it and it was only for the summer.
My first all-year-round job was working for a company in the hospitality business. I was sent to events, weddings, festivals etc. The change of pace, being able to grow into and develop a way of working that was my own made it incredible. At least, that was my perception until management changed. Now there were strict rules and extensive training sessions which created a feeling of distrust. Looking back now, I can see that there was a mismatch of expectations due to a lack of communication. This kept building up discontent in the organisation. So, after working there for almost 2 years, I had enough.
I was lost for a while as I was looking for a new place to work for. Life tends to be expensive without an income, even for a student. I then found Silver Tie, another company in the hospitality business founded by two people who used to work for the same company I worked for before. Even better, they were my old bosses.
I was excited to combine the freedom of doing the work my way while having a great relation with the people at the office and my bosses. The freedom I felt was due to the biggest difference between these bosses and my previous ones, trust. Looking back, I find it interesting that even though the jobs were the same, with the exact same clients sometimes, that trust shown from the leadership was such an important factor. It was the thing that motivated me to always deliver the best result I could.
After another two years in the hospitality business I felt I was not enjoying the work as much as I used to but I kept working there. Looking back, it wasn’t only because it was convenient and payed decently. It was the team, more specifically the people that I interacted with the most that made me come back and keep working. It was the way my boss came in to say hi and ask how my week had been, what I had been up to or if I was coming to the company party later that week. It was the “great job, they were so happy with your performance” I got from my boss after working a tough job at a festival that made me keep coming back. I came to realise that he had put the effort and time into knowing all 350 employees by name so everybody felt seen.
I was confident however that I couldn’t keep working there just for the people. I wanted the same team atmosphere but in a sector that really captured my interest. So, when my studies required me to do an international internship, I was excited to look for a company that fit the bill. I realised that finding this company would not come easy. After contacting one after the other, I got an e-mail that was different from all the others.
That e-mail came from HR² Systems and it was energetic, excited and friendly. This kind of attitude and energy clicked immediately and pushed me to get the internship. What I soon discovered is that HR² Systems is full of positivity, creativity and openness. Both internship mentors I have at the company as well as the company CEO are great examples of good leaders. I have the trust to work my way, the support when I am unsure and the feedback and coaching that makes me able to adapt and improve every part of me, be it professionally or privately.
I came to realise that great leadership is not about getting your people somewhere, it’s about empowering them, so they can take your ideas and your company to places you couldn’t go on your own. It is trusting in the people around you, recognizing them and acknowledging them. I believe by doing these things, you will grow as a leader and enhance your employee’s engagement in your company.