Being a leader can be tough, it can also be really rewarding. In 12+ years of coaching leaders through challenges so they can have a rewarding leadership experience and inspire their employees, we’ve identified what we would say are the top 7 challenges we see again and again:
# 1: Isolation. Being a leader can be really lonely. You need to be the boss and sometimes you can’t really talk through issues you’re having with your employees, team, or management team. For example, you have an employee that reacts in a very emotional way every time you give them feedback—who do you talk to about this? You can’t talk to other employees. You don’t necessarily want to expose the behavior to upper management and tarnish the perception of this employee. You don’t want to take it home. It’s sensitive and you want to respect the privacy of the employee, honor their trust, and help them overcome their challenges. But how? This isolation can lead to loneliness, conflict avoidance or problems like the example, and it can also lead to a lot of second guessing resulting in delayed decision making and wishy-washy back and forth directives.
# 2: Lack of honest feedback. It’s not that people are dishonest, they just often times aren’t asked to provide feedback, or they hold back when they do.
# 3: Lack of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is so important. To have emotional intelligence is to be self-aware, be able to self-regulate, to have social awareness and social regulation. It’s all about knowing your strengths and challenges and how you contribute to the outcomes of different situations.
You may be seeing a connection among all of these challenges: if you are isolated, it’s hard to get honest feedback. If you can’t get honest feedback, it’s difficult to obtain emotional intelligence. You can see how leadership can be really tough! But, back to the list…
# 4: The fourth biggest challenge facing a leader would be that they lack the skills to lead from a place of influence rather than authority. When you only use your authority—your position as boss, or VP, or director--those around you will often only do what they are required to do—they are compliant; managers often end up micro-managing task lists with employees making sure the minimum gets done—not an efficient use of time. However, when you lead from a position of influence, using your relationships and knowledge, people will do their tasks to the best of their ability.
# 5: Leading and managing change effectively. This is a fairly global challenge—up to 70% of all change efforts fail! But it doesn’t have to be this way. Particularly mid-level managers can have a big influence on whether change is implemented effectively. This is why developing leadership skills and confidence within the mid-level management at organizations is so critical.
# 6: Communicating and operating across teams and across the organization. This is the difference between operating in a silo—manager and their team members, and working across the organization, breaking silos down in order to work as a larger team and network to really utilize the resources of the organization.
# 7: Thinking big picture and systematically. Along with working in silos—it’s difficult for many leaders to pull themselves out of the day to day and see the big picture. But it’s critical for decision making and for breaking down those silos and starting to work across the organization to harness the power contained in the resources of the entire organization.
Stay tuned for our series of posts about overcoming these challenges.
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.