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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Overcoming Key Challenges on the Path to Leadership Excellence

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Whether you’re a new leader or an experienced one, there’s always more to learn. This is especially true if you don’t get formal leadership training — which most leaders don’t.

In one study, almost half of leaders with 10 or more years of management experience said they’d had nine total hours of training, and 43% of new managers with less than a year of experience had no training at all.

As a leader, it’s important to understand that many times, overcoming key challenges in your leadership style is up to you. The good news is that there are many ways to identify and address challenges as you move toward leadership excellence.

Here are some key challenges to watch for and how to overcome them.

Identifying Your Natural Tendencies

Everyone has a default way of responding to situations. For example, some people respond to stress with confidence and even aggression, while others think things through before acting, and others freeze and struggle to manage their emotions.

Interestingly, your genetics may have a lot to do with your default reactions. Studies have found that hereditary traits can impact everything from aggression and anxiety to risk tolerance. Knowing your natural tendencies in different work situations allows you to know where you’re starting and what changes you might want to make.

Of course, you’re not stuck with what you inherited — you can always work on your default behaviors to improve your responses. However, it takes intentionality and practice, so be patient with yourself. Overcoming these built-in reactions is challenging!

Balancing Confidence and Humility

Many leaders understand the importance of seeming confident — it inspires confidence in their teams. However, too much confidence without humility can turn people off. You don’t want to come off as an arrogant leader.

How can you balance confidence with humility? Start by understanding your strengths but also your weaknesses. It’s important to know your limits and surround yourself with people who are strong in the areas where you are lacking. People will trust you more when you’re honest about what you can do and what other people are better suited for.

Next, be honest with yourself and your team about challenges. You don’t need to share every detail with everyone, but it’s important to get everyone on board to face challenges together. That way, you get everyone’s best effort when you need it most.

Finally, be open to feedback from your team. Being open to change shows you’re humble enough to grow and confident enough to take constructive criticism. Leaders who know they have both strengths and weaknesses tend to get more respect than those who pretend they can do everything.

Getting Your Team On the Same Page

Getting a diverse group of people with their own unique motivators and challenges to work together is extremely difficult. The best leaders make it look easy, just like the best NFL quarterbacks make big plays look easy, but it isn’t.

Getting buy-in from your team is possible, however. Whether you’re working on a specific project or trying to keep employees engaged with the company, you can start by sharing a vision for the future and explaining the role the team can play. When employees understand how their work makes a difference, they’re much more likely to buy in.

Next, ensure your employees understand the power of collaboration. Inspired people can run off and try to do everything alone, but you need your team to work together. Showcase inspiring examples of teams that made a difference, and help everyone understand the strengths that each employee brings to the table. When your team can see everyone’s strengths, they’ll be more likely to trust each other and work well together.

Finally, don’t micromanage! Once you’ve set the vision and helped reinforce collaboration, step back and let your team own the project or their daily work. Be available for coaching, growth, and helping employees advance in their careers, but trust your team members to execute their skill sets day-to-day.

A manager who inspires and trusts their employees will have a team that’s bought in, productive, and engaged.

Know What Your Team Needs From You

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. Leadership excellence requires you to understand your specific employees and meet their professional needs.

What are some things employees want in a leader? First, good communication is essential. It’s vital to work on both your verbal and written communication because you’re as likely to be communicating via email as you are running a meeting.

If your employees sense genuine support and warmth in your communication, that will go a long way toward building confidence in your leadership, which results in better buy-in.

Next, work on your remote management skills. Today’s teams are often at least partly remote or hybrid, and managing remote employees has unique challenges. It’s important to ensure everyone feels like part of the team, your remote workers get enough coaching and professional development, and you don’t overlook someone simply because they aren’t onsite. It’s also vital to understand how projects are going and ensure everyone is on top of their responsibilities.

Finally, encourage your team to work together. Some sports teams think they can win by bringing a ton of stars onto the team, but they fail due to a lack of chemistry. Often, teams with good talent and great cohesion beat teams with great talent but poor cohesion. As a leader, you can encourage connections within your team by recognizing each person’s talents, praising contributions, and putting a stop to toxic behavior before it has time to damage the team.

Leadership Excellence is Within Reach

Having formal leadership training is helpful, but you can become an excellent leader on your own as well. Recognize your tendencies and find ways to improve them. You can get feedback from others in your organization, read books about great leaders, and find inspiration from a variety of sources.

You’ll never overcome all the challenges associated with great leadership, but as you face each obstacle and address it, you’ll become a leader that employees respect, rally to, and are willing to do their best work for.

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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