Leadership challenge: What skills do you need to overcome your leadership challenge?

A leadership challenge is often understood to mean a direct threat to an individual executive's position, such as chief executive officer, by another executive. However, a leadership challenge can also refer to various business leadership challenges involved in running day-to-day operations and meeting business goals.

Personal leadership challenge

Maintaining effective leadership skills is a key leadership challenge as executives move up the ranks. The leadership skills that served you well as a functional or business unit manager probably won't be relevant any more once you enter general management. Indeed, this leadership challenge can come as a shock to previously very successful executives promoted to a general manager position!

Inspirational leadership is required at this level in order to motivate and enable people to follow your agenda and your long-term vision for the organization - including people over whom you have no direct authority. Senior executives need particularly strong skills for resolving conflicts, stakeholder engagement, and motivating and inspiring others to continually give their best.

Strategic leadership challenge

A second key leadership challenge relates to the strategic planning process. Business development is only possible through the development and execution of a well-crafted business strategy. This requires solid strategic analysis, the setting of clear business objectives, and the aligning of stakeholders, resources and business activities to meet these objectives. This leadership challenge is hard enough as it is, but becomes even more challenging when leaders face the dual goals of driving both immediate business results and long-term company success.

How can business leaders overcome a dual strategic leadership challenge of this type? In addition to strong business strategy skills and strong personal leadership skills, as discussed above, business executives can help achieve short-term business results through the ability to diagnose and resolve performance problems, as well as developing a winning organizational culture.

At the same time, business leaders need to build capabilities across the company to ensure the business stays successful in the future. This includes being able to determine the need for change within the company or business, as well as the current state of play - how ready are people for change? Meeting this leadership challenge also requires good talent management and development. The talent pool available to most leaders within their organization is limited. Retaining good managers and employees, and growing their capabilities is essential to ensuring the company has the necessary skill set for future success. It is all too easy to neglect this part of the organizational development of a company, but without this a company's growth will be short-term only.

Try executive education to help with your leadership challenge

Even if they don't admit it, most business leaders face a variety of leadership challenges at various points of their career. And ultimately, the way a leadership challenge is addressed will determine the true success, or failure, of the organization - and the leader.

Skills for effectively addressing leadership challenges can be developed through professional leadership training, offered by good business schools. A wide variety of leadership courses are available, from those which address a particular leadership challenge to those providing more broad-based business, management and leadership skills training.

The best leadership courses are generally those offered by top international business schools like IMD. To identify the best institutions, check the business school rankings of publications such as The Economist, the Financial Times and Forbes. By going with a top-ranked business school, you can be confident of finding a leadership development program that will help you overcome your leadership challenge.