The Greatest Leadership Challenges
Last Thursday I asked this question over in the Leadership Freak Coffee Club, “What are the greatest challenges of Leadership?” Here are a few responses from that lively conversation.
Stop managing when you should be leading.
Beverly replied: One of the greatest leadership challenges is, “Remembering to lead and not manage. (Particularly difficult for the micro managers who always think they can do it better).”
Beverly is aware of what I’ll call the “Bottle Neck of Excellence.” It’s the belief that everything has to be done as good as you can do it. In reality, some things just need to get done. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
Susan adds that we should know …”the difference between microbrew and micromanage. One allows the ingredients to do their own thing once they get started.” I love the metaphor of microbrew. Put the right ingredients together and let them work.
Living up to your reputation and/or other’s expectations
Julia said the greatest leadership challenge is “staying believable. If you create the hype you’ve got to live up to it.”
Reputation building is a real and perhaps uncomfortable component of leading.
The obvious response is don’t create hype, be real. However, in the end this isn’t always realistic. Successful leaders learn how to highlight their strengths and minimize weaknesses. Additionally, you’re competing with smoke blowers, great pretenders, and backstabbers that claim they can do more than they can do. Research shows excelling at office politics works.
In reality, this is an organizational culture issue. Some organizations welcome “realness,” others thrive on hype, image, and façade. If you’re about authenticity, and I hope you are, find an organization that embraces it. You’re in for trouble if you live “real” in a “hype” environment.
In your opinion, what are the greatest leadership challenges?
Courage to say what needs to be said and to do what needs to be done.
Hi Mary Jo,
Thanks for adding your comment. You remind me of John Spence who says the number #2 challenge leaders face is having the hard conversation.
Hope your day is great,
Mary Jo, bang on the money. I think it is a big problem for people to say it like it is for fear of being unpopular. I think one of the challenges is Leaders tying themselves up in old agreements. If the situation has changed, you need to review the agreements you have made as sticking with them might not serve what is needed today!
Thanks for your insights. Knowing when to let go of old methods and strategies and embrace new ones must be one of the greatest leadership challenges… Too soon and you aren’t relevant, too late and your irrelevant.
#1 – Effectively leading a change in a way that people “want” to change rather than being “forced” to change.
#2 – People always have a choice of doing an excellent job. Getting people to exercise their choice of delivering excellence is a huge leadership challenge.
Sorry for the delay in posting your comment. My spam filter got it.
To be prepared to not complain about the same thing twice (only because you did something about it).
Coffee club!!! Dan you’re a hive of online activity I’m exhausted.
Great to see you again!
Your remark is power packed because it suggests leaders ACT! Don’t be a whiner.
I’m a whirlwind of activity!!!
I haven’t updated Croadie’s profile but he is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak.
There goes Croadie again, holding up mirrors…dang it, calling out whiners anonymous….WA! 😉
Don’t worry Doc, I struggle with this constantly – where does you r whiners club meet!! 🙂
Getting out of the way.
Authenticity – which includes awareness that oneself and others are so much more than their roles at work, which demands humility, which demands occasional fearlessness.
In a volunteer organization, I think a tough leadership challenge can be keeping the professional and healthy relationship boundaries in place that are necessary for the sake of all. For instance, working with a charity that deals with extreme illness. Many volunteers have “been there” or “are there right now” with their fight with cancer or their child’s fight with a genetic disorder that will likely prevent them from seeing adulthood. You often share tears and empathy. That is a good thing. But experiences often bring with them some hot emotional buttons for people, and in the end there still has to be a healthy structure and a boundary there when you have to lead. It’s difficult to disagree with someone you’ve shared heart-break and tears with and you have to be careful about blurring the lines of emotional bonding and work. It can be a difficult balance.
I absolutely agree to your point that ” You’re in for trouble if you live “real” in a “hype” environment. Environment that embraces hype also embraces sycophancy, exeggeration, showing someone else of superior reputation and image etc. The other fact is that people sooner or later come to know the reality. And this creates distrust. But actually speaking this distrust does not harm to hype creater, it harms only to real and authentic people. The other and perhaps the bitter truth about the organisation that embraces hype is that people who believe in it can not survive at any other place. And this is the reason, they hype situation to protect themselves.
I think the greatest leadership challenges are maintaining self morale, confidence and courage in unfavourable situation; showing humility when you achieve the impossible; and being unbiased and impatial with everyone. There are other challenges as well but I think these are perhaps the greatest ones. I also think time and circumstances are the best parameters to measure leaders. There are people who disconnect with people, collegues and peers when they achieve more. There are times and circustances when people stop believing people and those are the moments when real leadership comes into play.
Fantastic post Dan. Our environment is real. This creates a lot more issues. If you allow real, then you have to deal with it. If you keep it hyped, everything stays below the surface and the hard things are never dealt with. Hype is actually easier to manage, but does not guarantee for how long. Real is messy, takes time and requires care and authentic response! Thanks for the post!
I have always been a “wonderer” about what lies behind people’s actions; perhaps this is why I spent part of my professional life in career planning. The people who amaze me most are the leaders who maintain a steady course despite a deluge of data, opinions, and pressures. I am not sure if I said to them, “Why do you lead “ABC Organization” or why are you the chair of the committee to end “ABC Cause,” that they would have a “pat” answer beyond “It is what I do” but I think at the heart of it is some type of conviction and moral compass. The challenge inherent in this statement is that a leader who can’t remain immune to opinion polls and data long enough to make the most well-reasoned decision for their organization is a leader who may take the ship into dangerous waters.
Pacing change seems to be one of the leadership challenges that is a constant, which sounds slightly oxymoronic.
When to push and when to pull and knowing how hard to do each. A brilliant awareness of timing worth cultivating.
Absolutely, you have to be facing ‘true North’ in your words, thoughts and actions or else all your pace and timing is wasted energy.
As the world appears to contract (or maybe it is just greater connectedness) and the pace appears to be increasing (more information leads to more options), the greater the need for more facile and depth of leadership. Dan your FB jump is a great example.
To bring this full circle, the leaders ahead have to keep pace with the pace of change by living and breathing a constantly learning model. While looking inside they have to pace timing when looking outside of themselves. Or maybe that is just walking the talk.
Leading change before the need for change is obvious.
Beverly and Susan are spot on. I couldn’t agree more.
It seems to me that leaders need a little more EQ than IQ. Just sayin’.
On the basis of my experience of non-profit sector organisations in India, I think, broadbasing initiatives, interpreting set-backs for the team members, defining primary stakeholders, and institutionalising internal locus of control are key challenges for leaders.
Thanks for your comment. I love the expression, “institutionalising internal locus of control.” Very powerful statement.
In another life, I worked in professional theater. One year I did what’s called “one-week stock” – I worked at a summer stock theater where we did 1 new show a week for 8 weeks. It was brutal. But one of the best things I learned there is that “Done is better than good.” The belief that everything has to be done as well as you can do it is dangerous….
Bess, thanks for a wonderful illustration. Cheers, Dan
i am going to handle a certain part in an important event this march and I’ve been nervous bout how to handle my subordinates. I’ve handled one before but few cooperate. i think i know what part i missed that time, thanks for this Dan and the also to the responses.. I’ll keep this in mind..
We , human beings ,from very binging were created being vested with responsibility to carry out-to play leadership role up on creatures,however;we could not do that not because of knowledge,or issue related with one else but because of selfishness and ego.