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Challenges of Leadership Development

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 12/31/2010

Leadership development entails developing leadership abilities and attitudes of individuals. The key challenges leadership development faces includes dealing with unfamiliar responsibilities, handling accountability, managing change, managing diversity, and effecting trade-offs.

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    Dealing with Unfamiliar Responsibilities

    Challenges Leadership Development The primary challenges leadership development face includes new leaders equipping themselves with the necessary leadership skills and handling unfamiliar responsibilities.

    Peter’s Principle holds people tend to rise to their level of incompetence. Most organizations reward key performers with promotions, and as such those promoted as leaders would invariably be top functional performers. The problem arises when good performers excelling in their technical or functional area do not have the skills required to become good leaders. Leadership requires specific skill sets such as people management skills, communication skills, tactfulness, decisiveness, empathy, proactivity, time management, and the like.

    Leadership also entails additional responsibilities such as co-ordinating the team effort, carrying along non-performers, speaking for the team, motivating team members, and other unfamiliar tasks. The leader would also have to collaborate across functions and business units, and influence people in other departments or external agencies. All these may be alien to an otherwise competent technical professional.

    The key to success as a leader lies in making a determined effort to inculcate the required new skills and practice into familiarity the new responsibilities. Eagerness to learn and remaining open to feedback and positive criticisms without feeling threatened by subordinates help overcome these challenges leadership development face.

    For more details on various approaches to leadership, please see Bright Hub's detailed collection of articles on leadership styles.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/srqpix

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    Handling Accountability

    Leadership is an expansion of the traditional functional role in terms of scope, scale, time pressure, and accountability. Leadership provides power, and with great power comes great responsibility. The challenges of leadership development comes from how the leader handles this responsibility.

    The leader is responsible for making decisions based on overall organizational interests. The leader is also responsible for the performance of the team, has to issue instructions, and need to own up for the mistakes or incompetence of the subordinates. Developing maturity to show competence in dealing with such expanded roles is the true sign of successful growth as a leader.

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    Managing Change

    Leadership and managing change remain inseparable. A primary function of the leader is to herald and manage change. The change process includes thinking out of the box for innovative solutions, operating in ambiguous solutions, making tough on the spot decisions, demonstrating perseverance in the face of adversity, working on an ad-hoc basis until the new systems are established, and the like.

    Leaders need to be ready to innovate and try new things to pass the challenge of managing change.

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    Dealing with Diversity

    Managing Diversity is an important leadership development challenges. A diverse workforce is inevitable in an increasingly globalized economy, and this raise the challenge of interacting with people of other cultures, gender, background and the like for the leader.

    The successful leader inculcates diversity awareness and sensitivity to different cultures and people.People from different cultures have different outlooks, orientations, and expectations, and the onus is on the leader to reconcile these disparities and persuade people of different backgrounds to work together to facilitate organizational interests.

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    Managing Trade-Offs

    Developing the ability to effect trade-offs between conflicting interests ranks among the major challenges leadership development face. The trade-offs pertain to issues such as reconciling individual interests of subordinates and organizational goals, resisting the temptations for short-term gain and fame for long-term benefits and power, balancing corporate profitability with ethical standards, and the like. Leaders who cultivate the art of making such trade-offs effectively and in a time bound manner overcome a major challenge of leadership development.

    The importance of leadership development for organizations stems from the fact that almost eighty percent of problems experienced in any organization are people-related. With the importance of human resources rising and organizations competing for talent, developing leaders to manage the existing talent has become more important than ever before. Good leaders ensure solutions to such problems and help drive the bottom line.