[  "You don't need a title to be a leader - and having a title doesn't make you one."  ]

Leadership does not automatically bring with it power, privilege, or respect and is more about how you are perceived.  How you see and handle yourself will ultimately determine the level of success you have and the legacy you leave behind. Understanding the challenges and pitfalls of leadership is the first step in avoiding them. Here are six challenges and opportunities that every leader in any position should keep in mind. 

  • Expectations

Understanding expectations is a two-way street; not only do those you manage and lead need to know and understand your expectations of them, but you also need to know what they expect of you. The regular level setting is important because expectations can change with priorities and what we need today might be quite different from what we need and expect tomorrow. The worst time to discover you have not met someone's expectations is when there is nothing you can do about it.

  • Expertise

Just because you are a leader and “in charge” does not mean you are an expert or that you do, can or are expected to know everything. Good leaders surround themselves with people who know things they don’t and great leaders let them use, apply and give them credit for that knowledge. One of the worst pitfalls a leader can fall into is to assume they do or should know everything and be threatened by others who know things they don’t. We all have our expertise and for those things we are not experts at we should leverage the expertise of others.

  • Recognition

Everyone wants and needs recognition, leaders included because leaders also have bosses. The day’s when providing a paycheck was a demonstrative of a job well done and there was a type of loyalty and longevity between the company and employee are long gone. Today’s employee wants to be recognized for their contribution in a way that is meaningful to them. This may be the public accolades or it might be the more private thank you that is given. Failing to recognize employees is a missed opportunity to build a connection. 

  • Time

Yes, there are only so many hours in the day, but leaders must effectively use and utilize their time to get things done. The ability to determine what has to be done and what doesn’t is a skill and the greatest compliment to that skill is knowing what can be delegated and what they the leader must do themselves. It is a huge mistake to assume that because someone is in a leadership position they have to do it all. Of all demands on a leader's time, the one absolute must is making time for your employees.

  • Change

Leaders must act like change agents. Regardless of how they feel about it or if they agree, employees look to leaders in times of change. It is the responsibility of the leader to offer support and guidance during times of change to minimize its distraction and disruption. Failing to set the right example and provide that support and guidance will only add to the chaos and discord that change can bring.

  • Credibility

Some level of credibility comes with experience and accomplishment, but credibility is earned day after day. While mistakes can damage credibility, which can be minimized and fixed by acknowledgment, taking ownership and fixing what's wrong. What is harder to repair is when credibility is intentionally destroyed with insincerity, agendas and misuse of position and authority.

While this is not an exhaustive list of challenges to being a successful leader, it is a good basis for building on leadership credibility. Ask yourself if you are doing a good job with each of these and if not start doing things different today so you can be a better leader tomorrow.





By Anthony T. Eaton   |   June 2015