The Top 3 Biggest Leadership Challenges CEOs Face

If being a CEO were easy, everybody would be one. CEOs are expected to know what to do -- and to do it without falling down. There is a reason few in business rise to this position. It is your responsibility as CEO to ensure you're fostering your company's growth and value -- but the task doesn't necessarily come with ease. Here are the top three biggest leadership challenges CEOs face.


It's lonely at the top is an axiom of business for the CEO. The chief executive is typically the most isolated person in the company. They account for such a small percentage of the population, without any peers within their own companies. Think about it like this: every other person in the organization has a boss. Who does the boss go to for help? You can't ask employees to give feedback on ideas and strategies, and you can't seek council from your board of directors out of fear of looking weak and indecisive.

To help relieve the isolation, CEOs can build private/outside advisory boards -- or find peer groups like Vistage International or Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) to receive advice and unbiased feedback. Believe it or not, other CEOs are experiencing similar problems.

Balancing competing interests

One of the main jobs of a CEO is allocating resources effectively. You are constantly tugged in dozens of directions daily, and employees, managers, suppliers, customers, shareholders, and even family, are all making demands of resources and time. Deciding who gets those limited resources and time is a delicate balancing act.

Competing interests always view the situation as a win/lose scenario. If you have three different department heads vying for a major investment to increase their revenues -- but only have a limited amount of money -- you can either spread it thin between the three, or allocate it to the department you think has the best chance of success. If you do the latter, the other two will be upset and feel they're not getting a fair shake. However as a CEO, it's your job to look at the ROI of each resource and allocate properly. Someone wins, and someone loses.

Creating a path to growth

Growing a company is like rowing a boat upstream. Since your competitors are rowing their own boats beside yours, you can't stop rowing or you'll fall behind. CEOs are always trying to figure out how to row their boats and edge the competition.

The path for growth is a difficult one. For the CEO, growth means increasing the top line in revenue and the bottom line in profits. It requires investments, strategies, execution, and talent - and all of these are tough to find, fund, and figure out. Besides acquiring a crystal ball and peeking into the future; engaging outside advisors, acquiring market intelligence, and developing the skill to forecast trends in technology and demographics will ease the growing pains.

Tough decisions are constantly made by the chief executive to ensure growth is healthy and sustainable. In a competitive environment, CEOs are forced to squeeze as much as possible out of every resource -- whether it's money, people, or assets. As CEO, if you let go of your focus on the future, the current will sweep you backwards. Stay focused and keep rowing.

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC's premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Contact Mike for an executive coaching session.