leadership challenges and solutions

I teach a course entitled Leading People as part of the Senior Leader Candidate Development Program at the Graduate School USA. In this course, I discuss the common challenges that every leader might face, which can derail his or her efforts to successfully lead their team. These challenges range from difficultly leading people to quieting the inner critic to communicating the vision and more.

I also offer solutions from my experience working with executive coaching clients, senior leaders across a variety of industries and in my West Point days. This article explores the challenges and solutions.

Challenge 1 – People do not naturally want to follow you, even if they know you’re the one in charge.

People are often resistant to following anyone, even those in charge. Sometimes they feel that by following others, they will lose some self-esteem or power. Understanding why they don’t want to follow you can help you gain their trust.

I experienced this challenge as a young Second Lieutenant Platoon Leader. First of all, I was 22 years old and had just gotten out of the Academy. My youngest soldier was 20 and my oldest was 45. Some had seen combat, but I was the one in charge.

Late one afternoon, my Platoon Sergeant pulled me aside and said, “They will follow you because they see your confidence and believe you know what you’re doing. You’ve been trained to lead. Get to it.” He was right. I was hesitating and second guessing myself; both of which were undercutting my credibility with my followers.

Solution 1 – Ignore those inner voices, put on your John Wayne face and lead.

There may always be that quiet voice that will say, “You have no idea what you’re doing.” If you listen to the voice, it can lower your self-confidence and make leading that much harder.

Look for ways to add to your credibility by leaning on and displaying your strengths. If you have definite expertise in some aspect of the job, put that expertise on display for your followers to see. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about those areas where you still need to build proficiency. Your willingness to listen to advice, even from your followers, demonstrates the confidence of a leader.

Challenge 2 – People will only follow you if you have a destination

The most effective leaders are transformational. They constantly question the organization’s direction and methods, and they have a glorious picture in their mind that defines how the world will be better off once they reach their imagined destination.

That mental picture creates a destination in their mind of where exactly they wish to lead their people. So, if all you’re doing is punching your to-do list, your team can’t pick up on the path you’re tracking, and they can’t follow along. The real challenge is picking a destination that gets people hungry enough to cast their doubts to the wind on the off chance that they might just make it.

Solution 2 – Generate your vision to select your destination; pass the dream onto your followers

I can personally attest to the power of a great vision. As a high school cadet, I thought after graduation I’d go to a local college and then hope to find a good job. My professor of Military Science, COL James Norwood, called me one afternoon and started talking to me about West Point.

But he didn’t just talk, he gave me an old West Point yearbook and I spent hours going through it. Every time I brought it back to him, he’d point out something else and tell me to take it home and keep looking. After a while, I forgot about taking it back.

I forgot to take it back because I got lost in my own research. I got lost in the dream that COL Norwood planted in me and I was too busy generating my own dreams to bother with returning to his office. I’m almost ashamed to admit it but I still have that old yearbook – plus four of my own!

Challenge 3 – People do not care where you’re heading

People generally care only about their own ideas, agenda, and goals. It’s only when they feel their leader truly cares about them that they begin to get on board with their vision. The great challenge is striking the balance between attention to the mission and attention to the people involved in achieving the goals of the mission. There feels like there is never enough time to adequately address both.

Solution 3 – Show your team that you care

In the Army, it was termed Mission First – People Always. The mission is always there and needs the leader’s attention, but the leader cannot forget about the people who are there to address the mission.

The solution is to spend time with your people. Make sure they know they are as important as what you’re trying to accomplish.

As a leader, which of above challenges and solutions most resonates with you? What else would you add to this list?

I hope you enjoyed this and have some strategies that you can use to improve your effectiveness as a leader. Now get out there and lead people to greatness! Need a speaker to rally your team or a one-on-one coach? Hire Art.

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Art Jackson, Professional Speaker, Executive Coach

Art Jackson

Art Jackson is a professional speaker and executive coach. He is a recognized expert in the areas of leadership, performance improvement and interpersonal skills.

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