When it comes to skills like leadership, it’s easy to think that experience is the only way to become an expert. Seeing others do it first. Spending years watching others do it before you. Then putting what you’ve learned to practice for years and years.
But that notion’s been proven wrong time and time again as young people pave the way in all sorts of industries: there’s no minimum age or experience required to be a visionary leader. And there’s a lot to be learned from those who disrupted their fields with little to no prior experience. From founders to board members, actors to entrepreneurs, we’ve gathered lessons from Forbes Under 30 members over the last decade—to fuel and inspire the next generation of disrupters.
1. “Our job as leaders is to develop and preserve a culture of excellence. We become our best when we help other people be their best selves at work.” — Cami Téllez, CEO and Co-founder of Parade
Cami Téllez is co-founder and CEO of Parade, a community-first underwear brand that champions self-expression, social good, and radically transparent sustainability. Parade has sold over 1 million pairs of underwear in just under 2 years and brought in over $10M in revenue in 2020 alone.
2. “Never take your eye off the product and customers. The rest of stuff is important, but sometimes noise.” — Austin Russell, CEO and Founder of Luminar
Recognized as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at age 26, Austin is an engineer, business leader, and self-driving industry pioneer. His company Luminar develops LIDAR sensors for self-driving vehicles. Luminar has more than 50 commercial partners including the majority of the world’s largest automakers.
3. “We have no playbook for young female leadership. We can collectively define a playbook of feminine leadership. We need to give permission for people to explore it.” — Rachel Carlson, CEO and Co-founder of Guild Education
Rachel Carlson is the Co-Founder and CEO of Guild Education, which unlocks educational and upskilling opportunities for Americans. They work with leading Fortune 1000 employers such as The Walt Disney Company, Walmart, Discover, Chipotle and Lowes.
4. “Prioritize gratitude, meditation, and exercise. These things are so important to build into your daily life.” — Justin Kan, Co-founder of Twitch
Justin sold his first company Twitch to Amazon for about $1 billion in just 3 years. He’s known for his leadership philosophies and a champion of helping your team find their zone of genius. Just 3 years after starting his next venture, Atrium, he made the decision to shut down the business with 180+ employees. His advice after having experience on both the positive and negative sides of the Silicon Valley startup world? Prioritize mental health.
5. “What I’m looking for in a board member is a combination of two things. One is, I want to make sure that they really care about me. And at the same time I want to make sure they challenge me.” — Mathilde Collin, CEO and Co-founder of Front
Mathilde is known for her values-driven leadership style and championing top-down radical transparency—as well as her fundraising tactics. She has raised more than $138 million in funding for Front, both from individual investors and well-known venture capital firms. She shocked Silicon Valley by closing Front’s $66 million Series B round in just 5 days. Mathilde stars in Leading from the Front, a video series where she interviews leaders from all walks of life for their advice on building a successful company. Sign up for Mathilde’s email newsletter.
6. “Whenever you do something entrepreneurial, you have to be prepared to fail.“ — Jarrid Tingle, Co-founder & Managing Partner, Harlem Capital
Harlem Capital is a $40mm venture capital fund aiming to change the face of entrepreneurship by investing in 1,000 women and minority founders over the next 20 years. Jarrid has been featured on the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 list, 2019 Inc. 30 under 30 list, 2019 The Root 100 list, and the 2018 Ebony Power 100 list.
7. “We need to be thinking about how we’re supporting every member of our team, not just the executive team, but every member of our team, in their corporate journey.” — Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of Reddit, Co-founder of Initialized Capital, and Founder of Seven Seven Six
After co-founding the third-largest website in the U.S., Reddit, Alexis started Initialized Capital, a venture fund with a portfolio of $100 billion in market value. He’s now building Seven Seven Six, a venture fund focused on people, culture, and community. Alexis is known for championing family and work life balance, paid family leave, and investing in employee happiness for the long-term health of your business. He has also written a national bestselling book, Without Their Permission.
8. “I see myself as a customer. Whenever we’re looking at our products and the quality, I’m always thinking, would I want to buy this?” — Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Actress, Producer, Author and Business owner
Outside Tia’s internationally-recognized career in acting and producing, her supplement brand Anser provides simple, high-quality, and affordable products in an effort to inspire people of all backgrounds, particularly women who are underrepresented in the market, to take charge of their own health.
9. “Getting advice from the folks ahead of me in taking their companies public was incredibly helpful.” — Frederic Kerrest - COO and Co-founder of Okta
Frederic has driven corporate priorities and innovation across Okta for more than 12 years. More than 10K customers like JetBlue, Nordstrom, Slack, T-Mobile, Takeda, Teach for America and Twilio rely on Okta to easily and securely use the best technologies for their business. Frederic’s also co-host of the award winning Zero to IPO podcast, featuring founders, entrepreneurs, and investors sharing insights into their experiences building companies.
Paving the way for more disrupters
Whether it’s age, experience, or background, diverse leaders of all kinds are continually paving the way in their fields. But they’re also setting an example for future leaders of the world, signaling, “Hey—anything is possible!”
Watch the Forbes Under 30 Virtual Kickoff Event A Founder's Guide to Fundraisingwith Mathilde Collin, CEO and Co-founder at Front; Frederic Kerrest, COO and Co-founder at Okta; and Alex Konrad, Senior Editor at Forbes.
Written by Emily Hackeling
Originally Published: 11 June 2021