4 Challenges Every Leader Faces

Life is Good

Regardless of the leadership role we play, there are common challenges every leader faces as we seek to build an organization or guide a team.

With challenges comes tensions, remedies, and goals. Are your ready to face them?

Here are 4 common challenges that every leader needs to overcome. Each of these challenges create tension just by facing them.

1) The Learning Challenge

Learning is optimized when truth meets life. The world is full of theorists and visionary dreamers. Their ideas are creative and often stimulating.

But we cannot determine the viability of an idea until it is tested in the crucible of reality.

Therefore, learning requires a gathering of facts and ideas, and the simultaneous action of putting such ideas to the test. I find that gathering information and shaping a hypothesis or strategy are both essential to learning.

  • Too much fact gathering can result in paralysis from analysis
  • Moving too quickly without thoughtful reflection and information affirms the old adage “haste makes waste.”

Usually a new idea needs about 30-60 days to percolate and investigate – then it is time to start shaping some initial experiments, pilot programs or beta tests. Then you can do some trial and error, assess and see if you need to gather more information and what kind of data you need.

2) The Development Challenge

Most organizational leaders are too busy executing yesterday’s strategy to make time for developing tomorrow’s leaders. Empowerment is needed, but it must be accompanied by skill development. F Former Harley Davidson CEO Teerlink once said this:

“If you empower dummies, you get dumb decisions faster!”

So we must provide empowerment and motivation as we develop others, but skill training cannot be neglected or you get zeal without knowledge.

Any development strategy requires attention to the “heart” – passions, motives, dreams – and skill development for the “hands” of every leader. Help an emerging leader know what to do but also why it needs to be done so that people change and the mission is accomplished.

3) The Reconciliation Challenge

Leadership and conflict go hand-in-hand. First we must know how to manage it; listen, speak truth, identify areas that must be addressed, take responsibility for your part, agree to a solution, move ahead with integrity, and out the past behind.

But then we need to reconcile the relationships. It is one thing to solve the issue. But it is quite another to rebuild the relationship.

People tend to take one of two approaches:

  1. A gentle, kind approach designed to woo the person back into the relationship
  2. A direct, confrontational strategy that immediately brings truth to light and requires a direct response.

The “kind” people tend to circle the field hoping the conflict will go away or things will smooth over on their own. The confrontational person tends to shoot first and ask questions later. To hold these in tension is probably the better approach overall.

Speak the truth but do it in a gracious, even tone, seeking to understand the other person even as you point out the problem or issue. Give them some space to explain and response, but make sure you speak the whole truth.

4) The Impact Challenge

Every leader wants to make a difference in people’s lives and yet accomplish the mission or task. But there is often a tension when working with a team.  

Do we put more energy building relationships on the team and investing in people or focus on getting the job done with excellence and efficiency?

  • The answer to this question is YES.
  • You must hold both in tension.
  • You cannot ignore one and do the other.

Relationship building experiences, down time, meals together, and some relationship-building exercises are needed.

And a clear understanding of what success looks like for the project is equally important so that the task is completed with excellence. You can do both.

Here is a summary:

Challenge to Meet

Tension to Face

Desired Outcome



Personal Transformation



Skillful Passion



Healthy Conflict



Team Effectiveness

What does your team struggle with? It might help to set some time aside to review this chart and name the tensions you see. Ask your team to work through them openly and honestly, knowing that the tension will never go away, but that there are ways to navigate them together.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Dr. Bill Donahue
Dr. Bill Donahue is President of LeaderSync Group, Inc

Bill is a professor at TIU and a Leadership Speaker and Consultant
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Image Sources: jasonpetermann.com

2 responses to “4 Challenges Every Leader Faces

  1. Excellent post. You have done a great job of tabulating the post in summary – I can see this used in a quarterly meeting. Which challenge do you see as the most limiting in leadership?



  2. “Siege Mentality” is a syndrome many leaders must learn to avoid. Some are sold on already having all the answers and feeling the need to “lock themselves away” from the real world to “do their own thing” without distractions. They often avoid opportunities to connect with customers, prospects, vendors, employees and other “outsiders” – online and offline – who might otherwise offer them valuable insights to do help them better as leaders and as companies – on the whole.


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