Alyson Van Hooser is a self-described ‘old school millennial’. From being on her own from age 13, to putting herself through college, to leadership positions in the retail and finance industries, Alyson has worked hard to achieve her goals. She now works with Van Hooser Associates, where she has to opportunity to dedicate herself to her passion for leadership development.

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Leadership is Twofold

Alyson says that leadership is twofold: you lead yourself and you can lead others. The first step in leadership is personal development, she says. She learned early on in life that if she wanted to be successful, she had to first lead herself. As she got older, the leaders in her life helped her develop into a successful person. It was because they chose to serve her, she says, that she listened and learned and followed them where they wanted her to go. Great leaders are able to connect and relate to their people. When you have influence over your people, you can get the results you want from them.

Listening is Essential

Tom admires Alyson’s ability to really listen to others. He asks her how she developed this great skill. She describes how, from her childhood, she paid attention to her role models. You’re not going to learn if you’re not willing to listen, she emphasizes. She focuses on the little things that people say that give insight into who they are, what they want, and what motivates them. As a leader, that’s the information you have to know if you’re going to get better results out of your team, she says.

Leadership Is Influence

You need to have influence if you want people to follow you. In fact, leadership is influence. The only way to get that influence is to serve others. Leadership, Alyson says, is about taking the superior position, which is not about you being on top, but rather putting everyone else before yourself.

Training Millennials

Leaders need to serve their Millennial and Gen Z employees by giving them educational opportunities to help them become valuable members of the team. Despite how unfavorably mass media has portrayed Millennials, they bring many skills to the table, and can provide value that older generations may not be able to. If you want the best from them however, you have to give them the opportunity to share their ideas without fear of repercussions. Honor their desire to make a difference, to add value to the team, Alyson says. When she trains Millennials, she teaches them that their responsibility is to be a leader for themselves, to be professional and hold themselves to a high standard. This is necessary to get buy in from the people above and below you, she says. Stay true to who you are, but adapt in order to relate to people and gain influence with people all across the organization.


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