I have the privilege to spend many of my days listening to and talking about the inner thoughts, challenges, frustrations, and realities executives face.  I spend 6-months to several years regularly talking to my executive clients one-on-one in executive coaching engagements. I hear and experience not the polite or planned discussions that present in organizational team meetings, but the human experience behind the title and the decision-making processes.

While each leader is a unique individual facing different contexts and situations, I am struck at how similar the themes are that emerge in these coaching engagements.  No matter how competent, smart, successful, and experienced a leader is, there are some striking commonalities in what we spend time talking about.  Here are the top themes that executives wrestle with that appear over and over again.  Perhaps you resonate with some of these yourself.

1. Identity Crisis: Figuring out what an “executive” should do and not do in the role.
2. Feelings of inadequacy: Feeling grounded, comfortable, and confident.
3. Task Orientation vs. Talent Maximizer: Avoiding the management mode urge to assign, control, and monitor tasks instead of tap into the talents of others.
4. Stakeholder Relationship Building and Management: Building relationships and navigating the norms and expectations of different groups and the political dimensions of influence involved in the role.
5. Building Teams: Identifying and grooming talent and providing the care and feeding to nurture and sustain commitment and performance.
6. Energy Management:  Setting time boundaries and priorities in alignment with the executive level, preventing overwhelm, burnout, and divorce (!)
7. The Hero Syndrome: Letting go of the need to be the smartest person in the room and prove how much you know or can do.
8.  Strategic and Future Focus: Moving from down and in to up and out.
9. Inspirational and Impactful Communication: Learning to communicate and influence with inspiring messages.
10. Change and Uncertainty: Navigating the unknown and delivering results in volatile and ever-changing circumstances.

What I derive from these themes and daily conversations is that no matter what our title is, how much leadership experience we have, and how good we are, we are all still figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and how we can be better leaders.

While we attempt to do this, what helps is the ability to stay humble, vulnerable, and lead with less ego and more soul.  That means trying to react less with the habits and instincts of finding fault, maintaining status quo, and having all the answers. It instead requires us to show more curiosity, humility, empathy, and openness.

And finally, these themes remind us that leadership is not a trait to acquire or attain, but part of an organic process.  Leaders continuously evolve and develop with the environments and people around them. We are all leaders in progress.

Here’s to our continued leadership evolution,