How to deal with common leadership challenges

With the right tools, approach and mindset, even inexperienced leaders can be successful
by Fred Heritage


While some leadership challenges may be industry specific and the result of a unique set of circumstances or certain individuals, others will be familiar to all leaders.

It is almost guaranteed that change will occur, and leaders will need to navigate that change and keep their teams on track. Here are some more common leadership challenges and some advice on how to tackle them.


Every workplace has “a lot of pressure built into it,” writes Jacqueline Wolven in an article for Lifehack. Being able to cope with this is therefore a common requirement of most leaders. “Your ability to accept and release some of that pressure will benefit you in the long run,” she adds. Wolven advises leaders to find “quieter moments” in their day that help them find balance.  

Handling conflict

When disagreements and disputes happen within a team, the leader should ensure that the conflict is handled properly or risk affecting workplace culture and productivity. But, “Instead of resolving the conflict, most (leaders) end up complicating it more and making the situation uncomfortable,” says an article in Engagedly. “The main challenge lies in creating and implementing a formal process for conflict resolution and sticking to it,” says the article.

Sharing bad news

The team may have underperformed, and the leader must share the news with the board. Or the company can no longer offer promotions or bonuses, and the leader must tell staff not to expect them. In whatever form bad news comes, it will be up to leaders to deliver it, and this can be one of the most challenging parts of their role.

In an article for The Enterprisers Project, writer Kate Yuan provides five key steps for leaders when they need to deliver bad news.

  1. Start with the facts so there is less chance of the news being taken personally.
  2. Share the consequences and trade-offs to provide a holistic perspective on the situation.
  3. State clearly what happens next for everyone involved.
  4. Show empathy for everyone affected and use ‘I statements’ to express emotions.
  5. Give people time to process what they’ve heard, ask them if anything needs clarifying, and let them vent if they want.


A common leadership challenge is staying motivated and motivating the team. In the Lifehack article, Wolven writes that when things fall flat and motivation wanes, leaders need to focus on what they can fix and let go of things they can’t.  

She continues: “You won’t always be the number one cheerleader in your own mind, but your team is expecting you to be so get out there and share the enthusiasm you do have; even when you are a little off your game.”

Letting someone go

For many leaders, sacking a member of their team will be the hardest challenge of all. In an article for The Muse, writer Tye Deines outlines some tips for making the process as pain-free as possible.

  • Avoid surprises: Make sure the employee is fully aware that they’re underperforming and give them the opportunity to improve. Performance reviews are essential for giving people this chance.
  • Make the consequences clear: If providing feedback and direction to an underperforming team member isn’t working, let them know that they could be at risk of being let go if things don’t improve. Depending on your official processes, this may need to involve HR and an employee improvement plan.
  • Have the talk: If these steps have no effect, then it’s time to ‘have the talk’ and let them know they’re being let go. This is bound to be a difficult conversation, so Deines encourages leaders to practise what to say beforehand. During the talk, it’s important to stay calm and refer to previous communications, he writes.
  • Leaders should never say it’s as hard on them as it is for the employee: it’s not.
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Published: 22 Jul 2022
  • Soft Skills
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • leadership
  • teamwork
  • team
  • motivation
  • mental health

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