The 4 Obstacles To Becoming A Better Leader

“Reading a book on leadership is like reading a recipe for a sophisticated meal”…

This is what someone told me last week and I loved it. Let me explain…

It all makes great sense first and leaves you excited to get started.

But then once you’re actually making it, you realize that…

  • you have to make adjustments based on ingredients or kitchenware you’re missing,
  • you have to convert and adjust measurements based on your circumstances
  • and, likely, you’ll have to read the recipe over and over again to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

Reading a book on leadership is the same.

What sounded so easy in the book is not all easy to apply at work. Your team is different. Your culture is different. Your boss is different… and well… YOU are different.

And that’s exactly the problem with the way most people try to get better at leadership.

This self-study approach has some serious flaws and leads to the 4 most common obstacles new managers (and people in general) experience when they’re trying to become a better leader.

Let’s look at each of them in more detail.

1. The Knowing-Doing Gap

New managers often KNOW a lot about leadership; they’ve read books and articles, watched videos, attended classes on leadership or participated in seminars.
But they tend to know a lot more than they DO!

Knowing something doesn’t guarantee that one can implement it (like reading and understanding the recipe doesn’t mean your meal will actually turn out well)
In fact, sometimes, quite the opposite!

Knowing the words and having understood the concept can lead leaders to think that they’re already implementing it.

If they did not know or understand the concept they would devote more attention to it, but when they understand it and the whole thing makes a great deal of sense, it seems that “the box is ticked” – at least until the individual gets strong feedback that his or her behavior actually does not measure up.

For example, I dare to assume that the vast majority of leaders understand the issue with micromanagement and that they shouldn’t do it. Yet, a survey conducted by Trinity Solutions showed that 79 percent of respondents had experienced micromanagement.

2. Insufficient Investment

Too often, new managers underestimate how much effort is required for them to learn new leadership knowledge in a way that will be helpful in practice.

They are too quickly satisfied with a broad understanding of the principle and, as a result, they often under-invest in developing a more granular understanding of the concept and in ensuring that they understand what it means and how to use it in their unique circumstances.

If it’s not in your head you can’t use it under real-time conditions. And if you want the knowledge to be in your head and usable quickly, you must make notes, reflect, and understand how and when to apply it in your job. 

3. Implementation Difficulties

If we want to behave differently from the habitual response and more consistently with our new desired behaviors, we need to

  1. become aware of the habitual response before taking action (e.g., not say or do what we would normally say or do under these circumstances),
  2. search our mind to identify a more appropriate response, and
  3. produce that more appropriate response…

all of this in real-time and under performance pressure.

These 3 steps require time and attention, two commodities that new managers tend to have in short supply.

They also require self-control, which recent research has shown functions a little bit like a muscle: Exercising it makes it stronger in time, but weaker in the short run.

As a result, new managers will often end up “reverting” to their “old habits”, especially when they don’t have any support and are not paying enough attention.

4. Insufficient Support

When new managers become conscious of the fact that they need to learn a whole new set of skills in this role and then decide to invest time and energy to develop and practice new habits, they often get tripped up by their environment.

The first disappointment occurs when new managers fail to receive positive reinforcement on their efforts because people simply aren’t paying enough attention to it.

More problematic still, people around them were used to interacting with them in certain ways, and changing that may initially lead to some confusion.

For example, a new manager who is trying to delegate more is going to need team members who are willing and able to step up their contributions. For some, it was maybe easier to complain about the boss’ lack of delegation than to actually do it.

It will take some time for everyone around you to adjust to your new habits. Don’t give up after sensing some initial resistance.

3 Tips to Overcoming the Obstacles

Each of these four challenges can be overcome. I see it day-by-day.

All you’ll need is ongoing guidance, focus, and persistence.

Here are my 3 tips:

  1. Invest in a leadership development program that offers support for at least 3 months
  2. Know exactly what areas to focus on most versus trying to learn whatever you pick up in books, articles, or videos that you randomly come egress.
  3. Commit to it. Growth is not easy. Yet, your career only grows to the extent you grow. If you have grand ambitions about who you want to become, then commit to doing what it takes to get there.

The Leadership Accelerator program is specifically designed to help you overcome these common challenges so you can become the leader you want to be faster than any other program or learning approach out there. If you’re interested in learning more, head over HERE to book a free call.

Your leadership coach,


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