7 Challenges of Being a Young Leader

By November 3, 2015Blog, Leadership

Last week, I posted about the benefits of being a young leader. Today, I want to talk about some of the challenges that come with being a young leader.

When I interview leaders for the Learning to Lead podcast, I always ask leaders the following question: Where do you see young leaders “missing it” most often? Regardless of what leader I interview, the responses are all typically the same. It’s from their responses and my observations that I submit to you the following challenges: of young leaders:

1.) The Challenge to Be Developed rather than Discovered – I’ve found that young leaders, including myself, can focus too much time and energy on being discovered rather than being developed. What I don’t think we realize is that if we’ll focus on being developed, then one day we will be discovered.

2.) The Challenge to Be Teachable – I would argue that this may be the number one challenge of young leaders. I’ve seen far too many people get sidetracked in their leadership journey because they were not teachable. They thought they knew better than the people that God placed in their lives to help develop them. As leaders, we all need people who can confront us, tell us no, and tell us things we don’t want to hear, but need to. Being teachable requires humility. Being unteachable is usually a sign of pride.  If you will humble yourself and develop a teachable spirit, there will be no limit on your growth! 

3.) The Challenge to be Faithful and Patient – Let me break the news to you, it’s going to take a long time for you to develop into the man or woman that God created you to be. Accept it and embrace it! You are probably already doing certain things that you’ll be doing in your future, just not at the level you’ll be doing it then. That is where faithfulness comes in. If you will be faithful day in and day out with what you have in your hand right now, you will get to where God wants you to go. Don’t let your impatience cause you to miss out on what God has planned for you.

The most important advice on leadership I can give young leaders- It's not about you!

4.) The Challenge to Recognize It’s Not About You – Rick Warren recently tweeted, “The most important advice on leadership I can give young leaders: It’s not about you!” Ouch!

The sooner we learn and apply this, the more effective and fruitful we will be. If you don’t learn this lesson, you are going to cause a lot of pain to yourself, those closest to you, and those who follow you.

My Pastor recently said, “Success in leadership isn’t when you reach your full potential, it’s when you get to a place where you are helping other people reach theirs.” I love that. In God’s world, not even your personal growth is about you! It’s about others!

5.) The Challenge to Have an Abundance Mentality – When we’re young, for the most part, we’re all trying to prove that we have what it takes to lead, provide, be something, etc. As a result, we can often get jealous our peers and start compare and compete with them. If our peers seem to be surpassing us, we get envious, bitter, depressed, or even angry.

When that happens, it’s clear that you do not have an abundance mentality. The truth is, there is enough “success” available in the world to go around! It’s possible for everybody to succeed and do great things. Too often, we get wrapped up thinking that if someone else is successful, then our success will be limited. That is a lie and it will limit what you can do with your life. Celebrate the success of others and recognize that there is plenty to go around!

6.) The Challenge to Define Success Correctly – While we’re young, we tend to think that we will be successful when we have a certain position, possession, amount of money in our bank account, influence, network of people, etc. While none of these things are bad in and of themselves, none of them determine if you are successful or not. I wrote a blog post on defining success last week.

I often ask people what they want to be remembered for and what are they most proud of. Why? Because it helps me see how they define a successful life.

Out of everyone I’ve interviewed, all of their answers have this in common: they want have a great family and they want to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s it. At the end of the day, if you are loving God and loving others, you are more successful than you could ever imagine.

7.) The Challenge to Manage these Challenges  – Andy Stanley said, “When you have a challenge come up, you have determine if it is a problem to solve or a tension to manage.”  I would argue that these challenges are not necessarily problems for young leaders to solve, rather tensions that need to be managed for the rest of our lives. Manage them well and your life and leadership will take you places you never dreamed of, cause you to make an impact you never knew you could, and to look back on your life with joy. It doesn’t get much better than that.


  • Which of these challenges do you struggle with?
  • What other challenges do you see for young leaders?

Thoughts? Comment below!

If this post helped you and you believe it could help others, please “like” and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon, and the other social media sites listed below. Also, I would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Leave a comment below! Thank you!

I would also encourage you to subscribe to this blog via RSS feed or e-mail! You can sign-up for e-mail by typing your e-mail address in the box on the left hand side of this site that says “E-mail updates”.