Healthy Leaders


The 3 Biggest Leadership Obstacles

Matthew FretwellMatthew Fretwell

Like many people in the business world, I have extensive experience in leadership. I’m a self-motivated, entrepreneurial, multi-tasking person. I’m currently a director of a leadership coaching network (and coach), a pastor of a revitalized church, a director of operations for a global church planting network, a doctoral student, and a family man. I was a restaurant owner and executive chef for over 20 years. Needless to say, I know about leadership and obstacles.

Here are three of the largest leadership obstacles I have observed.


Time is the number one obstacle. News Flash: There are 24 hours, seven days a week ‒ no more, no less.

When making business decisions, time can be used as a weapon, or become a major detriment ‒ we’ve all been there.

But, the obstacle is not time management; it’s our view of time. Time is a measure of success. We sometimes gauge success by how fast we reach our goals.

Goals and time correlate. Effective leaders must set goals. Period. A leader without goals is only a manager.

For instance, I made a goal to be a head chef by age 24; I did it at age 23. I pushed for executive chef by 27; did it by 25. Then, owner by 35; I did it before 30. In each of these set goals, time was a factor, but not an obstacle. An obstacle is something in the way ‒ a factor is an influence.

I used time to motivate me to achieve my goal ‒ not vice versa. Biblically, think Caleb, 85 years young, and he faced his toughest battle. But, it was his goal to possess the land (Joshua 14:10–12).


I view myself as an everyday guy. I’ve had money, I’ve lost money. I’ve coveted money (confession), and I’ve loathed money (usually, when I lost it).

Answer this question: If you had an unlimited amount of money, how would it change your goals or leadership style? The answer provides a truth to your passion, drive and self-motivation. If money “changes everything,” you’re not passionate about your leadership goal(s). Money is a tool ‒ not the goal. If you think it’s the goal, you have a misconstrued view and will find this out the hard way.

I’ll use my past as an example. Early on in my career, I took a lower paying job because it provided the title that I needed. In reaching my leadership level and goals, I had to place money on the sacrificial altar. It worked.

I forfeited a better paying job ‒ for my goals. I did not allow money to dictate my life.

When leaders are focused on money ‒ it’s an obstacle. It fogs decisions, wrecks relationships, and hinders goals. Remember, it is the “love” of money that is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).  


For many leaders, prioritization will either make or break you.

Effective leaders are strategists ‒ prioritizers. As it has been said, if something is important, you’ll make it happen. When your smartphone lights up, you either answer it, or you don’t ‒ prioritization! Do you really want to talk to your mother-in-law right now? Don’t answer that (pun intended).

Everyone prioritizes … from what we wear, to which item we put on first, to when we’ll eat.

When a leader fails to strategically prioritize, his ship will drift with no one at the helm. As a sea captain utilizes a navigational chart, he strategically maps out his course. So too, a leader must strategically map out tasks ‒ what’s important?

Most of my restaurant-owning days were brutal, especially on the days when I was cooking and prepping. I had to strategize my priorities. A food item which took several hours to cook caused prioritization. But, while the item was cooking, I was performing other tasks in payroll, scheduling, or finances ‒ keeping a watchful eye on my food.

Prioritization is not about multi-tasking, but strategically ordering things of importance ‒ whether a daily task or life goal. When a leader does not prioritize ‒ things gets hijacked.

I’ll leave you with this ‒ If you don’t make a decision, life will make one for you.

This article originally appeared here.

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