Leadership Challenges We All Face


We all face specific leadership challenges. For instance, some people are deathly afraid to admit they are not perfect, weak, or lack confidence. I wanted to take a second to challenge these ideas in your head if you harbor them, especially regarding your leadership capabilities.

There are numerous examples that I could provide to demonstrate how my leadership has been challenged, slowed, or ultimately impacted by any number of forces. I have selected four examples that seem most relevant but simultaneously highly connected to one another and the ultimate point.

Being a leader is, in itself, a challenge. For me, developing an interest in leadership and becoming a leader (being the youngest sibling) has been a challenge all the way around. I am the youngest of all my brothers. Study after study on birth order and leadership suggests that firstborn kids are more likely to become “Leader” material than their younger siblings (Jones, 2007). World leaders are also overwhelmingly firstborn children (Psychologies , 2012).

My older brothers are indeed leaders, each in their regard. There is no disputing this, so the idea of becoming a leader in a family of leaders can be daunting. Sometimes, I am a little amazed at the progress I have made regarding the pecking order.

Being the youngest, it has taken a lot of time and work to see my leadership capabilities for what they are. The internal questions that arise from time to time, such as “Do I have everyone fooled?” or “Am I just pretending to be a grownup?” or “Am I ready for this?” etc., demonstrate that sometimes the internal struggles weigh heavy, even for guys like me. This may be because I view my brothers as great leaders and myself as the baby brother.

Still, I have overcome this self-doubt in many ways through my achievements alone; however, I feel questions of doubt may always creep in because success is so hard to measure. I must recognize my worth and attempt to achieve more than my older siblings, not in a competitive fashion against them per se, but for an internal reason, that is never addressed to my brothers. It is as though I must prove to myself that I am every bit as good as them. I think highly of them is the point. I’m sure we all have that “hero” against whom we measure ourselves against. This can be both good and bad, though. We must remember that we are all different and bring different things to the table. Even against those with whom we compete.

The lasting result here has been positive. I am generally looked upon in my family as a “leader,” but the paradigm is interesting in that our family decisions are very collaborative. We are all leaders in this regard. Just for example, my second oldest brother is a Master Sergeant and very used to making decisions. And this will forever be an unusual situation because, growing up, I was always told to shut up and go play. Now my opinions are valued and sought by the family unit. Still, my drive for equal status in the family has driven me to achieve things I would have never guessed I would have done originally, such as higher education.

Of course, we grew up rough and moved around a lot. I would say that I did not have a solid peer group until well into High School. So, developing some hierarchy within a peer group was impossible for many years and very difficult to figure out when the opportunity finally arose. Oddly enough, I more or less bypassed the politics of different peer groups and just did my own thing, which bred followers. This also allowed me to become friends with kids outside my little group. I was always friends with each little sub-group and often participated in all of them. I was a jock, a choir member, a thespian, and an honor student. I wanted to experience all and didn’t understand the labels that came with each little sub-group. I suppose I still don’t in many ways.

The lasting result here is that I still hold many of the same friends I did after just being myself and doing my own thing. These are strong friendships! This method has allowed me to venture into new areas and ideas regarding the business. For most of my adult life, I have been self-employed in an industry that requires skills I taught myself to utilize. This has been a fantastic experience. It has only been in the last several years that I have begun exploring the corporate world and seeking leadership positions there. My life experience thus far has been a tremendous asset as I am viewed as someone who can reach across what are believed to be political boundaries within the organization I currently find myself. This has required little of me. Honestly, I go with my gut and make decisions based on Occam’s Razor. The point is that I am using what I know and applying it the best I can.

Still, we must always strive to overcome internal struggles and self-doubt because we have a strong foundation in right and wrong and can make quick decisions accordingly. These decisions may be questionable at the time, but we must trust that they were the right decisions. I suppose the most significant struggle can be learning to trust yourself.

Making questionable decisions is a direct challenge to your leadership. Others can see these as stupid or wrong, but a leader must “know” that what they have decided is the right thing. Decisions are at the heart of a leader’s success, and knowing what is right or wrong is crucial. Perhaps this is why I find education to be so valuable. I am constantly researching anything I can get my hands on because I feel that the only way I can be an effective leader is to have the information when it is needed or enough information to make an informed decision when a decision is required. So I learn about everything.

It is often said that fear comes from the unknown. Attempting to make leadership decisions with anxiety, lack of confidence, insecurity, impatience, intolerance, etc., can significantly hinder a leader’s ability to function, especially in the eyes of their followers. These are all barriers to leadership. I know I am not perfect, but perfection is also not required. I know that I must acknowledge and overcome these factors if I am going to be a good leader.

If I have the information, I will have less fear and be more tolerant. If I have less anxiety, I will have greater confidence. This helps to eliminate insecurity. My impatience is also recognized, and while it is a daily struggle, the fact that I can see this in myself is a start. But notice that I am simply using self-analysis to figure out ways to better my position. This is not some mystical process.

As you can see in the examples provided, my leadership is constantly challenged by both internal and external forces. And each time my leadership is challenged, I attempt to make the best decisions I can at the time, utilizing my foundation of information and right and wrong, and know that I am doing the best that I can at the time with what I have before me. Then, I learn from the experience, expand on it, and make better decisions. The lasting result is future success and the benefit of learning from the situation at hand.

The ultimate point I want you to take away from this is that we are not perfect. Nobody is. However, if I can do this… so can you. So don’t give up. Embrace your weaknesses. Do not hide them. Use them. Learn from them. The best leaders are the ones who can. Learn as much as you can about anything you can. Become better. Allow yourself to be challenged. You will fall and fail, but you can get back up and be better for it.

Resources for Leadership Challenges:

  • McCauley, C. D., Moxley, R. S., Van, V. E., & Center for Creative Leadership. (1998). The Center for Creative Leadership handbook of leadership development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Jones, D. (2007, September 04). Firstborn kids become ceo material. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2007-09-03-ceo-birth_N.htm
  • Psychologies (2012, July 05). The birth order effect. Retrieved from http://www.psychologies.co.uk/family/the-birth-order-effect.html