Top Challenges Faced by a Leader

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Girl Leadership photo

Top Challenges Faced by a Leader

An MBA programme should not only prepare you for the day-to-day dealings of business but challenges on the horizon. The challenges faced by leaders today may not look the same in a year or a decade. Aston University’s online MBA programme teaches students around the world how to anticipate leadership challenges in the workplace. While we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we can use lessons from current businesses and business leaders to anticipate the business skills needed for the future.

Building a team

No leader is an island, and every leader needs a good team to carry out their vision. A good leader may look at assembling a team as recruiting, hiring, and training staff. Great leaders view all of this work through the prism of building a team with interlocking personalities, skills, and ambitions. Hiring staff members who match the leader’s skills and interests creates a natural ceiling to an organisation’s growth. One of the hardest parts of being a leader is to recognise that the team shouldn’t be their mirror image.

Effective teambuilding is critical not only for a company’s success but for its bottom line. Gallup found that 21% of millennial professionals changed jobs from 2015 to 2016 with 60% of the generation open to new career opportunities. This 2016 poll also found 45% of professionals in other generations intrigued by new jobs, demonstrating professional ambition along with a failure of corporate engagement.

If your team members are polishing resumes, they are not entirely focused on their work. The aforementioned Gallup poll indicated that turnover of millennial employees reduced American productivity by $30.5 billion in 2015. Great leaders know how to recruit the best people for the job, keep them engaged, and offer paths to growth within the organisation. This foresight allows a leader to find a reliable inner circle along with a promotion pipeline for future mid-level and senior openings.

Aston University’s online MBA programme helps future leaders hone their organisational development skills. In two years of work, an Aston University MBA student learns about human resources management and leadership skills. The programme also offers free membership to AMBA, allowing graduates to network with colleagues.

Maintaining a vision

Successful leaders in every field understand that a clear vision is critical to long-term success. A vision for your career and your company allows you to set goals that create a path to growth. Your vision should evoke a strong response within you as it will guide you throughout your work.

For organisations, the visions of their founders translate into mission statements. Google Search’s mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Tesla’s mission is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” These statements started as visions by their founders and leaders. As organisations grow, however, it is possible that their leaders lose sight of their starting points.  

Inc. CEO Project CEO Jim Schleckser wrote a piece in the publication on mission drift. Without frequent review and introspection, a company can move far from its original mission with new initiatives and challenges. Schleckser recommends internal measurements of mission success along with the use of images and stories in media to create accountability to the original vision.

Maintaining your vision and your organisation’s mission are among the biggest challenges of leadership. Aston University’s online MBA programme prepares future leaders around the world to develop firewalls against mission drift. In particular, programme graduates learn to be self-aware about their strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness combines with essential business skills that allow the evolution of a leader’s vision without sacrificing its core elements.

Creating balance instead of burnout

All of the work that goes into committing to a company’s mission and achieving success can be stressful. Even the best leaders can be guilty of driving employees too hard or setting expectations that are unreasonable given current conditions. An important leadership challenge is finding the balance between the challenges of the workplace and the psyches of team members.

Gallup published a poll of 7,500 professionals in 2018 that revealed the depths of burnout in the American workplace. This poll found that 23% of respondents were frequently burned out at work and 44% of respondents were sometimes burned out on the job. Burnout reduces productivity, increases the likelihood of turnover, and impacts the personal lives of valuable team members. Gallup’s results found that 63% of employees with burnout use sick days during stressful periods and burned-out employees are 50% less likely to discuss goals achievement with managers.

Leaders at all levels need to demonstrate empathy and be intentional about communicating with team members about their needs. Frequent touch bases can gauge stress levels, while efficiency incentives and hours limits can prevent overwork. Aston University’s online MBA programme teaches leaders the confidence to acknowledge flaws in a system and the skills necessary to create balance.

Learning to prioritise

Every leader starts the day confronted by a full schedule and potential time conflicts. Leaders meet with their inner circle, communicate with media, review documents, and receive outside inquiries that quickly fill the day. Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley wrote in Forbes that the best leaders focus on items essential to the mission and delegate or delay other tasks. This advice is critical for leaders who want to surmount their time crunches.

There are a few methods for prioritising tasks that save a leader’s bandwidth for important work. A leader’s inner circle can develop a ranking system for new tasks based on applicability to the organisational mission. Administrative staff can route new calls and emails to appropriate contacts rather than sending everything to the head of a department or division. Leaders should also be diligent about managing their calendars to block time for calls, meetings, new business, and out-of-office work.

Aston University’s online MBA programme teaches students how to prioritise and delegate tasks. This entirely virtual programme provides leadership and communication skills that are essential to effectively managing time.

Avoiding the “endowment effect.”

If everything goes well, a leader can get used to continued success in the workplace. A big sale or new account can compound into a strong quarter or year. A new client can create an avenue to national and international expansion. Leaders who become accustomed to this level of success can become settled into their routines. When it comes for time to pursue new ideas, leaders in the success bubble can experience the endowment effect.

Economist Richard Thaler is among a group of academics who have studied the endowment effect. This concept occurs when someone values what they currently hold more than what they would pay to purchase the same item. Daniel Kahneman and Jack Knetsch also looked at this concept through the lens of loss aversion or the perception that giving up an object is costlier than obtaining a similar item.

In leadership, the endowment effect means that a successful business may stand its ground rather than pursue a new venture. The problem with staying still is that the world keeps changing and challengers are constantly trying to win market share. The string of successful sales, financial reports, and ventures can gather dust as innovative leaders demonstrate greater value to customers and clients.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has frequently touted the importance of constant evolution to corporate leaders. He argues that failures and unhappy customers provide more substantial lessons to leaders than successes. The endowment effect can be counteracted by constantly challenging assumptions, reviewing work done by others, and stay on the cutting edge. With an online MBA from Aston University, you can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to anticipate the endowment effect.

Setting boundaries in a connected world

The hardest part of being a leader in the 21st century is avoiding a deep dive into the boundless waters of a connected world. Wireless technology, social media platforms, and big data have created many more mirages in the desert than success stories. A leader of a small company might be tempted to expand globally using machine learning tools and algorithms. Major corporations often look to foreign markets as untapped revenue sources without thinking enough about potential challenges. While the digital world is a tempting frontier for leaders, it is important to maintain boundaries that prevent costly mistakes.

The biggest companies in the world still experience difficulties even with the aid of brand recognition and technology. Australia presents an interesting case study for the limits of the connected world. The island continent was an expansion target for Starbucks, but the coffee company’s name carries on through franchised locations due to customer support for local businesses. Amazon has also struggled to make headway in Australia due to product availability, shipping costs, and regional competitors.

The simplest way for leaders to set boundaries in a connected world is to keep core customers in mind before every big decision. Leaders also need to work with their teams to run new initiatives through checklists of potential challenges. A great leader looks for the best opportunities rather than the most opportunities.
Aston University’s online MBA programme is the perfect place to learn how to navigate our connected world. The Global Business pathway helps future leaders to anticipate market changes and global economic events that could impact their work. Graduates also leave the MBA programme understanding how to effectively act as a change agent.