Young Leaders and Internal Challenges

Figure 1: New Leaders Internal Challenges

Just as there are external challenges to new leaders, each of us possess positive and negative characteristics that directly impact our ability to be successful.  Even if we are fortunate enough to have the luxury of operating in a supportive and well-resourced environment, we are not guaranteed success as new leaders.  When new leaders are asked what some of the internal barriers are, the answer may be surprising.  Figure 1 captures the eight most sited internal issues among 600 new leaders surveyed by HCS in 2011.


The number one challenge is a feeling of exhaustion or being overwhelmed.  Sixty-seven (67) percent of respondents felt being overworked was significantly reducing their ability to perform as a leader.  Respondents mentioned that the share size of the workload when first becoming a leader is unmanageable at first.  A combination of working long hours, dealing with a steep learning curve, adjusting to new duties, attempting to win employee support, and improving current operations reduces new managers to exhaustion.


Almost 60 percent felt that not knowing how to implement and manage change was a significant barrier to success.  Since most new leaders want to “make their mark” it is hard to accept that initial actions fail to create desired goals.  When this happens, it is common to lose confidence or even motivation.

Balance and Delegating

The ability to balance supervision vis-à-vis personal work was the third factor and identified by more than 50 percent of the respondents.  Very closely related conceptually as well as in overall score is delegating.  Almost half of respondents felt that not being able to delegate causes some real issues for new leaders.

Engagement and People Skills

The last two major areas (around 45 percent) pertain to how well the leader is prepared to interact with people. If a leader does not possess the necessary engagement skills, then he or she is limited in their ability to motivate the workforce, while a lack of people skills limits the most basic interactions.

Management Interaction

The last two responses (micromanagement and internal management support) score less than the other areas, but appear more than 30 percent of the time.  Depending on personality, a leader may fail to empower those that do the bulk of the work.  This not only creates frustration and resentment, it many times inhibits the productivity of the work unit or organization.  When internal management support is absent, new leaders find it easy to “fall in line” with those above and simply oversee the status quo.  The excitement and new ideas that can arise from new promotions is lost to “business as usual.”

In the next post, we will discuss the significance of these findings and others.

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