4 Leadership Challenges You Must Face

Regardless of the leadership role you play there are common challenges we all face as we seek to build an organization or guide a team.

Here are 4 essential challenges to meet, the tension created in the process of facing each challenge, and the outcome we hope to achieve.

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. 

Learning, therefore, 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. Overloading data can result in paralysis from analysis; moving quickly without reflection and information affirms the adage: “speed kills.”

New ideas need 30-60 days to percolate – then it’s time to craft some initial experiments, pilot programs, or beta tests. Trial and error will help you assess and whether to gather more information and what kind you need.

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. As former Harley Davidson CEO Teerlink once said, “If you empower dummies, you get dumb decisions faster!”

So we must provide empowerment, but skill training cannot be neglected or you get zeal without knowledge. Any development strategy requires attention to the heart – passions, motives, dreams – as well as hands – mastering skills. Help an emerging leader know what to do and why it needs to be done.

The Reconciliation Challenge

Effective leadership creates tension and conflict. Tactically, we learn to listen, speak truth, identify areas to be addressed, take responsibility for our part, agree to a solution, and move ahead with integrity. But don’t neglect relationships. It’s one thing to resolve an issue; yet another to rebuild a relationship.

People tend to take one of two approaches: 1) a gentle, kind approach designed to woo the person back into relationship, or 2) a direct, confrontational strategy that immediately brings truth to light and requires a candid response. The “kind” people tend to circle the field hoping the conflict will go away or mend itself, while the confrontational person shoots first and ask questions later.

To hold these in tension is probably best. Speak truth in a gracious, even tone, seeking understanding even as you point out the problem or issue. Give them some space to explain and respond, and make sure you speak the whole truth.

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 can’t ignore one and do the other. Relationship-building experiences, downtime, and meals together can be combined with a clear understanding of what success looks like. You can do both.

Here is a summary:

Challenge to Meet

Tension to Face

Desired Outcome

Learning Truth—Life

Personal Transformation



Skillful Passion



Healthy Conflict

Impact Task—People

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 discuss them openly and honestly. These tensions will never go away, but how you navigate them will make all the difference. 

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