What is the Biggest Challenge for Leaders?


 The following is the second in a series of five questions and corresponding answers on leadership.  (See question #1: How to Motivate and Inspire Others? )

2. What is the biggest challenge in leading an organization?

Communication is the most important and most challenging task when leading an organization.    Leaders must communicate organizational goals and strategies, especially during difficult times,  but there is also the need to communicate at a personal level with everyone in the organization.  This is one reason emotional intelligence is considered to be more important than traditional intelligence when it comes to predicting success and happiness in life.  The ability to communicate, listen to others, manage conflict, deal with our own emotions, provide feedback, invoke humor, empathize, etc.  These are all skills that require a high level of emotional intelligence.  In the past, organizations have tended to put too much emphasis on so-called “hard skills” like strategizing, crunching the numbers and analyzing the data.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, with advances in search technology and analytics these skills are becoming less important while soft skills like communication and emotional intelligence are becoming more important.  The biggest challenge in leading an organization is dealing with people and that requires leaders who are master communicators and emotionally mature.  Good communication skills are also the first step toward building trust which is critical for creating a high-performing culture.

RealTime Performance has identified the following behaviors that lead to good communication:

  • Listens effectively
  • Is fully open to the ideas and opinions of others
  • Creates a safe atmosphere for open communication
  • Expresses ideas clearly, is direct and to the point
  • Asks penetrating and challenging questions
  • Communicates clearly and succinctly in a variety of communication settings and styles
  • Keeps others informed so there are no unnecessary surprises

The following resources can help you build your communication skills:


  1. Working with Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, (Bantam Books, 2000)
  2.  The Leadership Challenge, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, (Jossey-Bass: 1995).


  1.  The Five Messages Leaders Must Manage, John Hamm, Harvard Business Review, May 2006


  1. ConversationAgent – a great blog on all things related to communication, marketing, and social networking with a heavy bent toward business.


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