6 Most common leadership challenges

Leadership challenges vary by organization, but many of the most common have to do with motivating, encouraging, and effectively managing people. This is particularly true in business settings, where employees must learn to work together in order for a company to be profitable. Any situation in which there are both leaders and supporters can have leadership challenges, however, including a number of volunteer organizations and community movements. So-called “good” leadership is often a lot easier to describe than to actually implement. Many of the most common leadership challenges arise when leaders are either unaware of common pitfalls, or are inattentive to developing problems.

Motivating Employees

No organization, be it formal or casual, will get far if its workers are not motivated. Workers who lack focus or are uninterested in the end goal are not usually very productive, and can often undermine a leader’s efforts and authority. Sometimes, the fix is as easy as clearly communicating the mission. In other instances, leaders must work with employees individually to figure out an effective incentive structure.

A lot of worker motivation has to do with workplace psychology. The happier and more valued employees feel, the more likely it is that they will give the company their best efforts. Investing in employee happiness sometimes seems counterintuitive, but ignoring corporate culture is often seen as a serious misstep.

Cultivating Leadership Experience

One of the hardest parts of running any sort of organization is ensuring that those in superior positions are actually capable of leading effectively. The skills needed to head up a cause or execute specific goals are not usually intuitive, and they cannot always be learned in a classroom. Leadership students and scholars are often able to describe leadership styles and techniques quite well — but in order to actually execute them, some experience is usually required. Executives and others looking to hire or appoint leaders are usually wise to consider much more than what is on a paper resume.

Creating Team Unity

Leaders are often responsible for helping build unity between staff members. Teams that do not work well together often take a lot longer to complete even routine tasks. It can take a bit of time for workers to develop trusting relationships with one another, and the role of a supervisor or managers is to set the proper framework to encourage these relationships to grow. Employees do not need to become each others’ best friends, but they do need to be able to work effectively with each other. This does not always come as naturally as some might assume.

Facilitating Open Communication

One of the hardest things many leaders face is finding ways to be approachable without losing authority. Effective teamwork depends on a culture of open communication, where superiors and subordinates can freely discuss progress and problems. Employees who feel that their bosses are distant or somehow “off limits” have a tendency to make mistakes that could have been avoided had parties felt more comfortable talking to each other.

Encouraging Action and Innovation

Particularly in larger organizations, encouraging employees to be creative with their ideas and to take risks in their work is one of the more difficult leadership challenges. While it is important for workers to have boundaries and parameters in order to stay focused, some latitude is essential to growth. Organizations that do not ever generate new ideas are often surpassed by more innovative competitors.

Leaders must find a balance between keeping employees focused and giving them space to think creatively. The amount of freedom workers should have necessarily depends on the setting and the sort of work being done, but is important in nearly all disciplines.

Information Management, Consistency, and Other Details Challenges

Leaders are often overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that must be done to keep a business or organization going apart from staff management. Being a good leader usually requires a strong attention to detail, and an ability to manage a lot of competing demands at once.

Most of the time, those in more senior positions must learn how to stay on top of enormous amounts of data, information, and paperwork. Organizational work like this is often only tangentially related to managing staff — but it must be done just the same. Adjusting to different roles is, for many, one of the most surprising challenges that comes with assuming a leadership position.