Aretha Franklin famously sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me,” as a demand for equal treatment for women and minorities during a period of immense societal change. The song’s sentiment can also be your guide in working relationships regardless of your position, but especially if you are a young manager responsible for older employees — some that may have even been alive when Respect was first released.
I am the unit superintendent of the Environmental Operations Unit for Syngenta in St. Gabriel, LA. I started this position at 26 years old, and I am the youngest person to ever hold the post. I have six direct reports — four shift supervisors, one unit engineer, and one day supervisor. While these are my direct reports, I am ultimately responsible for 24 people working in my area. Of the 24, I am only older than four of them.
While I am thankful to have so much experience in my unit, as a young leader, it presents some challenges. I’ve managed any difficulties by leading with respect and humility, thinking and verifying safety first, and continuing to learn about leadership.
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