21 Obstacles to Leadership

June 18, 2014

Obstacles to Leadership21 Obstacles to Leadership

Great leaders are constantly working on themselves in order to better lead. Sometimes they get stuck, however. They can’t overcome a particular obstacle or may not even be able to identify what the obstacle is. It helps for them to have someone who can speak truth to power, like an executive coach or a mentor. Coworkers may speak truth to power, too, but they’re more likely to avoid undiscussable subjects for fear of reprisal or harming the leader’s ego.

Coaches and mentors don’t have the same obligations, vulnerabilities, and vantage points as coworkers. We can spot the obstacles without the same sort of distractions or encumbrances.

Here are 21 of the most challenging obstacles for leaders today:

  1. Failure to see differences in personalities as benefits instead of deficits
  2. Failure to handle conflict successfully
  3. Failure to establish productive relationships with both peers and subordinates
  4. Focusing on performance measures more than communications and relationships
  5. Not getting or accepting candid feedback
  6. Seeing people as a commodity that is not as precious or more precious than other resources
  7. Placing self-interest ahead of unit or division
  8. Resisting collaboration with peers because of promotion interests/competition
  9. Not trusting subordinates
  10. Not learning to work with and motivate another generation of workers who have different work ethics and values
  11. Failure to commit
  12. Holding onto unrealistic expectations
  13. Reacting defensively
  14. Playing a passive role
  15. Playing it safe
  16. Failure to involve others
  17. Being too loyal
  18. Not learning how to avoid and correct past mistakes
  19. Failure to detect or correct behaviors that interfere with responsibilities
  20. Resisting delegation of responsibilities and decision making
  21. Using power and control instead of motivation and relationships
All leaders, myself included, struggle with these obstacles. These obstacles can undermine and derail great leadership. With coaching and deliberate practice, however, they can be managed successfully and overcome.
The success you have is likely despite obstacles not because of them, so don’t let the praise and affirmation you get from coworkers mislead you. Your coworkers are not in an ideal position to provide critical and constructive feedback; it usually works against their interests. Seek out an objective mentor or coach to help you identify and address your greatest obstacles.

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