7 Examples of Leadership Challenges and How To Overcome Them

Updated March 10, 2023

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A small team gathers on an empty office floor to discuss strategy.

In the workplace, the leader of a team has a responsibility to manage the team and to help the team achieve its goals. Challenges may arise that threaten a leader's ability to effectively guide their team. Understanding how certain challenges affect leadership can help you become a better leader.

In this article, we discuss the importance of leadership challenges and explore a variety of leadership challenge examples with considerations for how to lead your team through difficulties.

Why are leadership challenges important?

Leadership challenges are important because they can provide opportunities to grow personally and professionally. When faced with a challenge, an individual can seek ways to overcome that challenge to progress in their career or personal life.

Overcoming a challenge builds self-confidence, which allows you to trust yourself to face and overcome any challenges that may arise in the future. Additionally, overcoming leadership challenges can enhance your skill set because you may be required to learn new leadership skills to conquer the challenge.

Related: Q&A: What Is Leadership?

Types of leadership challenges

A leadership challenge may be external or internal:

External challenges

External leadership challenges derive from outside sources, such as other employees in the workplace, the company itself, economical events, or political events.

External leadership challenges can include:

  • Insufficient resources

  • Shortage of funding

  • Employee objection and resistance

  • Social issues among employees inside the company

A leader can address these challenges and overcome them by developing leadership qualities like problem-solving, critical thinking skills and communication skills. Leaders remain calm under pressure and make decisions that move the team forward. In this way, a leader keeps the team focused on its objectives and tasks and motivates team members to succeed in their individual roles.

Internal challenges

Internal challenges are difficulties a leader may face in improving their own professionalism. These challenges may include:

  • Fear

  • Lack of self-confidence

  • Impatience

A leader must self-reflect and identify any personal characteristics that can hinder their ability to become a great leader. Determining the qualities that may limit your leadership abilities can help you overcome these leadership challenges to be the leader that your team needs.

Related: Overcoming Leadership Challenges

Leadership challenge examples

Here are seven examples of common leadership challenges and tips for overcoming them:

1. Managing responsibilities

Often, leaders in the workplace are responsible for managing all team members as well as overseeing work projects and tasks. Occasionally, all of these daily responsibilities can become overwhelming and put pressure on the leader.

Specifically, a leader may feel pressured on projects with strict requirements and deadlines.You can ease some of this pressure by delegating tasks and by dividing projects into smaller segments. Try to reduce personal pressure by exercising and doing yoga or other relaxing activities.

Also, leaders can give themselves moments of relaxing time throughout the workday, even for only a few moments, just to help stay calm and focused. Furthermore, encourage yourself and your employees to have a healthy work-life balance.

Related: 7 Task Management Methods To Increase Your Productivity

2. Delivering difficult news

At times, leaders may need to have uncomfortable conversations with employees, such as laying off employees or relaying the company's struggles to their team. These instances can challenge the leader because they require them to communicate delicately while also remaining calm.

Leading your team through changes in the work environment involves showing support, providing solutions when possible and using good interpersonal skills to demonstrate compassion for your team as you assist them through transitions.

If you face this challenge, it is important to speak politely and calmly. Also, you can aim to be open and honest to minimize confusion. Show support for your team by making yourself available to answer their questions or discuss their concerns.

Related: Delivering Bad News To Employees in a Good Way

3. Communicating effectively

Communication challenges is a common difficulty that leaders face. They may encounter communication difficulties between clients, team members, leaders, managers and other upper-level leadership employees. To effectively lead a team, leaders use strong communication skills.

They must promote a transparent workplace where each team member's goals, responsibilities and expectations and the company's goals are well-defined. Leaders can overcome communication challenges by fostering and encouraging open communication between themselves and employees. It's also important to hold regular team meetings to promote cohesiveness and unity and to state the team's common goals.

There may also be communication disputes between employees that require the help of a leader. In these cases, help settle these disputes by encouraging honest communication among all team members. Active listening skills are also an important character trait that can assist leaders when handling communication issues within the team.

Related: How To Become an Effective Communicator

4. Motivating team members

Keeping the members of your team motivated and engaged is an important task for leaders. When your team members believe in the value they provide your organization, they may feel more engaged with their work.

As a leader, finding opportunities to encourage the members of your team to feel motivated in their work can help them stay productive and perform their duties effectively. For example, you can motivate employees by showing your appreciation for their efforts.

Giving positive feedback or rewarding employees who exceed their productivity requirements are great ways of providing motivation. You can also find ways to highlight how valuable your team members' work is. When your team members understand how their work offers meaningful contributions, they may feel more engaged in the workplace.

Related: Factors of Motivation: Understanding What Motivates Employees

5. Encouraging autonomy

It's important to allow employees to have autonomy in their roles by giving them some freedom and space to complete their tasks. The role of the leader is to encourage, guide and support each team member.

When your team members know you trust them to do their job well, they may take more initiative, be more motivated to do their work and provide new perspectives and approaches for accomplishing goals. Leaders can give team members independence by dividing projects into segments and prioritizing and delegating tasks to the team members.

Additionally, when collaborating on larger projects, consider dividing your team into smaller groups. It's important that each member of the team feels valued and supported as a trusted member of the team and the company. When team members feel valued and engaged in their work, it can lead to an increase in productivity.

6. Providing guidance

Although allowing team members to have some independence in their work can help them feel motivated and empowered, it's also important to provide clear guidelines for employees to follow. Setting expectations, establishing protocols and providing guidelines for your team helps them to meet your standards and fulfill their duties.

Have a clear set of expectations for your employees and their roles so they can feel confident in their work. When your team members understand the expectations of their workplace, it can help them feel more confident in making decisions about their work. For example, set defined goals that your team members can work toward each week, such as a productivity quota.

Creating deadlines for tasks helps your team members know when they need to complete their projects so they can manage their time effectively. This guidance creates the structure that employees often need to perform in their roles.

Additionally, clear expectations may minimize how often your employees need to ask you for questions or supervision, which allows you more time in your day to focus on completing other tasks.

Related: 6 Key Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

7. Accepting and distributing feedback

Having a system for requesting and providing feedback is important for leaders. Gaining feedback about your leadership style from your team can help you identify your strengths and areas for improvement.

You can implement a system to regularly get feedback from the members of your team, such as administering quarterly anonymous surveys or requesting feedback during employee one-on-ones. You may also request feedback from your own supervisor to help you find ways to continue your professional development.

In addition to gaining feedback from others, leaders need to provide feedback to the members of their team. Offering a balance of positive feedback and constructive criticism helps your employees know what they're doing well in their roles and where they can set goals to improve.

Feedback is great for promoting professional development in your team, and it can also be a good opportunity to improve your communication with your team members. Having regular sessions to offer feedback and communicate with your team can help you build strong professional relationships.

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