This past month, I have been working with leaders, CEOs, and C-Suite Professionals of major companies struggling to strike the balance of leading in a marketplace that is still growing quickly while simultaneously dealing with a rapidly increasing list of obstacles and challenges.
Leading today is not for the faint of heart; it is tough. The amount of inference and obstructions seem to be doing nothing but growing. I have one client with a sales team that is shattering records, with no product to deliver. I have another client that wants to expand her company into three new locations, but finding the real estate and affording to build has her rethinking how to expand. And one more has more than one-third of his team heading to retirement and a true lack of leaders ready to take their place.
To lead today, you need to understand the world has shifted; it is far more complex, far more challenging, and requires more of you as a leader.
Here are the three biggest challenges facing leadership today and the three innovative solutions to turn them to your competitive advantage.
Challenge – The Marketplace
Leaders today have to deal with the challenge of the constantly shifting, changing marketplace. Right now, leaders are looking at rising gas prices, threatening inflation, talent shortages, supply chain issues, and the list goes on.
Solution – Embrace The Suck
To succeed in today’s marketplace, you need to borrow an unofficial term from the military – Embrace The Suck. The meaning is that it is not the optimistic leaders that thrive in tough times, not the pessimistic leaders, but those who deal with their reality.
To embrace the suck means you don’t wait for the problem to go away or get better. You don’t pretend the problem does not exist. You do not allow the problem to become your reason for not succeeding. You embrace it as reality and find a way around it.
Challenge – People
One of the biggest issues keeping leaders up at night today is finding and retaining talent. According to Gallup, more than 41 million people voluntarily left their jobs in 2021, and of those, one in five are already looking for another opportunity. Finding talented, engaged, and well-skilled team members is nearly impossible, even when you can find the people you need to run your business.
Solution – Proactivity, Pipeline
If you want to find the best talent, you need to start using the skills and techniques you use to find the best customers. You build a pipeline, are proactive, nurture the relationships, and put in the time to build the relationship. Attracting talent today works the same way. The talent you need, the talent you want, is already working for someone else. Before filling a position, you need to identify the prospects you want to work for your company. Your human resources team (even if that is just you) needs to be actively calling on them, and you need to invest in them before you ask them to invest in you.
Challenge – Managing Change
Helping employees embrace change, feel good about change, and even just accept change is probably one of the biggest talents a leader today needs. The marketplace is moving rapidly, and you need your team to be adaptable, flexible, and willing to change with it.
Yet most employees resist change. Change creates fear and stress, and most employees do what they can to avoid it, making your role as a leader much more challenging.
Solution – Communication, Focus
As a leader, you need to increase your communication, strategy, and engagement around change. You need to be clear on the goals, highly focused, and then ask the team for their ideas and input. The most important question you can answer as a leader is why? Why do we need to make the change? Why does it matter? Why do your team members need to get behind and involved? What is in it for them? People hate change because it feels like it is done to them. Ask them for their ideas and input, and watch as your team stops resisting change and starts to drive it.
Yes, being a leader today is challenging. It calls for a new set of skills, a different focus, and an ability to adapt and change and consistently master the art of proactively solving problems. But while the job of leadership may be more challenging, the rewards are also far greater.
Put these strategies into place, and you will turn all this uncertainty into your greatest competitive advantage.