As a life, leadership coach, I’ve interacted and coached numerous leaders across the globe. Though the situations vary at a global level, the inherent problem is the same worldwide. Developing leadership qualities is indeed one of the most important factors for the success of any business. Leaders have to deal with different business conditions in a constantly changing environment. They have to adapt quickly as well as anticipate any change and this is what makes a good leader.
It’s the survival of the fittest. And, the fine art of balancing employees’ and customers’ demands can often drag a person with great leadership skills many rungs below his/her actual goal.
The challenges of all leaders lie within their own self. It’s about resolving some issues that are actually achievable if you can take the bull by the horns to develop good leadership skills.
So, what are the characteristics of a good leader? Which are their problem-areas? I’ve come across the following 7 common challenges most leaders face. These findings are based on my observations as their coach.
Top 7 Challenges Leaders Face in Every Organization
A leader with a fixed mindset about his/her culture, often faces the problem of this culture dominating the leadership skills.
- The Inability to be Assertive
Assertiveness is a valuable characteristic. Many leaders struggle with how to be assertive at work. It’s about getting your point across without upsetting others. Assertive leaders use a calm and positive approach to express thoughts and beliefs freely by maintaining respect for others. An assertive behavior helps a leader to express personal rights as well as ensure the rights of others. Sadly, not every leader opts for assertiveness with the fear of being viewed as “aggressive” or “pushy”. Leaders with great judgment skills and high on assertiveness levels have shown a proven higher rate of success. Assertive leaders are able to spot the need for their team member to change their behavior and convey the same. They often act as the appropriate role model to display the change they desire to see in others.
A lack of assertiveness simply translates into waiting for things to happen, assuming team members would understand a business requirement and urgency, and live in fear of being judged despite having the best solutions. Assertiveness is not a singular weapon for great leadership. And, there’s a fine line between being obnoxious and assertive.
It’s about achieving the right assertive communication skills to bring a change.
- Culture and Communication
Business leaders have to deal with diverse teams across the globe from various cultural backgrounds. Business communication is the key to get things done quickly and effectively. In today’s global business communication requirements, a single approach cannot be defined as the appropriate one for communication with one another. Culture, which is a set of defined values held by a group of people, vary as per region. And, a leader with a fixed mindset about his/her culture, often faces the problem of this culture dominating the leadership skills. This attitude largely affects people he/she is dealing with leading to cultural barriers in communication.
It’s easier when a leader observes and learns the culture and etiquette of various regions and takes the reigns of leading diverse teams in his/her own hands. A leader with a neutral approach holds the key to cross-cultural understanding and he/she is able to communicate effectively giving great results for business growth.
- Emotional Sensitivity
Many leaders I have encountered in my career have felt caring about the emotions of team members is best left to the Human Resources. Being “sensitive” is often looked at as being “weak” along with other negative connotations, a trait that does not go down well with “tough leaders”. On the contrary, as a coach, I’d invite leaders to develop the sensitivity levels for great strategy skills. It’s about being observant before acting.
Sensitive people often make great leaders as they can -
Developing emotional sensitivity is essential as it allows you to understand what others think, require, and ensure everyone works well together. The key mantra for being a sensitive leader is developing “care” “empathy” and being “genuine”. All go hand-in-hand to be emotionally sensitive with employees across different generations.
Sound coaching methodologies enable leaders (who lack emotional sensitivity) to recognize the feelings of others through the path of self-awareness and self-mastery of their own emotions.
- Closely observe a team’s interpersonal relationships
- A sensitive leader can relate and listen better, address misunderstandings and emotions at a workplace
- He/she can cushion constructive criticism with praise
- Are great cheerleaders even during bad times
- Can empathize easily
- Always keep communication channels open to address issues, feedback, etc.
- Ensure tasks are distributed equally
Lack of listening skills
Poor listening skills account for a loss of revenue for most businesses when leaders are unable to understand the need for developing this skill. An organization can rise or fall which is dependent entirely upon the quality of interactions between leaders and their teams. Listening is the key, a challenge for most leaders who have a point to put forth for their teams in every meeting. The urge to talk more without attentive listening is a barrier for effective team management. A leader, in this case, may be prejudiced or biased with preconceived ideas or could have a closed mind.
A healthy workforce always performs better and is happier in the long run.
A healthy workforce always performs better and is happier in the long run.
- Leaders must be aware about the following -
Good leaders need to facilitate productive conversations with larger satisfaction and higher value levels to achieve trust from their co-workers.
- Attentive listening promotes better functioning teams, boosts morale
- A good listener helps to increase sales and ensures customer loyalty by paying attention to details
- Listening often reduces stress for both sides - leaders as well as their teams
- Listening techniques promotes better collaboration among team members
Lack of alignment with the vision
It’s only when all the team members and leaders work towards a common goal that success is achieved for any firm. Yet, I’ve come across great leaders who lack the need to align the team with the vision of the firm. This is a damaging factor wherein employees would also be disconnected without a shared sense of purpose. Leaders with increased awareness know the importance of establishing working principles and norms that acts as a strong foundation for how a leader would lead to take the organization forward. It’s imperative for every business leader to know the importance of a shared purpose and establishing the alignment on the WHY of the firm they are with. There are several approaches to assess leadership team alignment as I’ve often discussed in my coaching sessions.
Leaders are faced with the massive task of working with a diverse age group. While tech-savvy millennials continue in the workforce, leaders also have to manage the Generation Xers as well as Baby Boomers. This leads to generational differences in the workplace.
The challenges can crop at a basic level. The older and the younger generation show preferences to different styles of communication.
For e.g.: Gen Y prefers to send text messages or use apps for messaging, older Gen Xers may prefer phone calls and emails. Younger team members may use abbreviations and informal languages.
There’s also the problem of different objectives for different generation groups. Millennials may place less emphasis on compensation with a focus on workplace flexibility, learning, positive workplace culture as compared to Gen-X or Baby Boomers.
Managing a multigenerational workforce includes the development of a company culture that goes beyond ping-pong tables and open office atmosphere. Handling varied age groups and breaking stereotypes (e.g. baby boomers are careless or millennials take a long time for the decision-making process) requires outstanding leadership qualities. One has to allow individuals to work in a style that suits them best with ample recognition for their work.
Maintaining a work-life balance
Leaders are constantly challenged at work with the rapid technological developments that change production costs, markets, consumer requirements. Leaders also strive to create a great company culture to attract and retain the top talents. There is a need to develop agile leaders who are structured yet flexible. The onus to drive results while placing weightage on people and the company culture can sometimes get taxing for leaders. This results in a chaotic or an almost zero work-life balance. Business leaders do have an understanding of a balanced approach but lack the implementation skills. I’ve often been asked how to achieve work-life balance. And, to this, I’d say, leaders need to serve as a role model, establish boundaries, promote hobbies, prioritize better and encourage dialogue on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. A healthy workforce always performs better and is happier in the long run with the awareness of a work-life
As a life, leadership coach, I’ve often worked with some brilliant people to coach and train as well as mentor them to bring out their best potential to develop leadership qualities. As a mentor, I’ve partnered with leaders to see the big picture while overcoming challenges smoothly by ensuring they maintain the essence of life. Have a challenge to resolve? Let’s connect. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org