How to Help a Struggling Leader (9 Ways to Help)

9 Ways to Help Struggling Leaders

I am more than happy to be led by someone who is struggling. The only qualification I have to follow someone is that they have the humility and knowledge that they’re struggling. I have worked for leaders who were downright incompetent and malicious. So the spirit of this post is not directed at those kinds of monsters who are hellish to work for. But rather the leader who is out of their element due to lack of experience, lack of confidence, or a combination of both, and wants to improve. Here are some tips on how you, a colleague, team members, subordinate or friend can help someone in a position of leadership who is struggling to hit the mark.

The best way to help a struggling leader is through open communication, empathy, constructive feedback, sharing resources, delegation, coaching/mentorship, encouragement of self-care, celebrating small wins, and creating a support network. Every leader, regardless of their experience, faces moments of struggle. And you, yourself, can demonstrate great leadership skills by being willing to lift them up in their time of need.

Let’s take a look at each more in-depth

Open Communication

Encourage open and honest dialogue with the struggling leader. Let them know that you are there to listen without judgment. Create a safe space for them to share their concerns, fears, and uncertainties. Active listening can provide them with the emotional support they need and help them gain fresh perspectives on their situation.


Empathy is so important in so many facets of life. Empathy is a powerful tool for understanding and connecting with other people. And even if you are not experiencing the same pain they are experiencing, you have the ability to relate to that pain. Demonstrate empathy to a leader who is struggling. Put yourself in their shoes and acknowledge their feelings. Let them know that you understand the challenges they are facing and that you genuinely care about their well-being.

Provide Constructive Feedback

If you’ve noticed specific areas where the struggling leader could improve, offer constructive feedback. It’s imperative your feedback is framed in a positive and supportive manner. Trust and empathy go a long way here. The person struggling in their role is already likely feeling the pinch of many eyes on them. So providing constructive feedback in a safe, calm, and loving manner will help lower their defenses against feeling attacked.

Even so, hearing how you’re struggling or failing is a tough pill for anyone to swallow. A few good thoughts here are to remind them we all have blind spots, and that you providing feedback is a way to ensure they are not missing a key element of why they’re struggling. Also, focus on their potential for growth rather than pointing out their specific shortcomings.

“Wise people prefer to benefit from constructive criticism rather than be ruined by false praise.”

~Shiv Khera~

Delegate Tasks

A struggling leader might be overwhelmed by their workload, burden of leadership, and the pressures which come with it. Offer to take on certain tasks to alleviate some of the pressure. This gesture not only lightens their load but also demonstrates your commitment to their success. An important note here, however, is do not take on a leader’s responsibilities, only certain tasks. If a leader delegates responsibilities, that is getting dangerously close to abdication of duties. Offering to lighten their load should be mundane tasks like scheduling meetings, finishing reports, or things of the like so they can focus on giving their responsibilities their due priority.

Share Resources

Offer resources that might help the leader overcome their challenges. This could include relevant articles, books, workshops, or online courses. Providing access to tools that have helped others can empower them to acquire new skills and perspectives. A good starting place might be our article on the 7 Best Books for New Leaders to Read!


If you have experience in leadership or a relevant field, consider offering mentorship or coaching. Sharing your insights, experiences, and advice can provide valuable guidance as the struggling leader navigates their challenges. As stated in other articles like 7 Steps to Effective Leadership with no Prior Experience, having a good mentor is invaluable for leaders. I am sure the struggling leader could use some help and friendship anywhere they can find it.

Encourage Self-Care

Leaders often neglect their own well-being while focusing on their teams. Encourage the struggling leader to prioritize self-care, such as exercise, mindfulness, meditation, a healthy diet, and rest. A healthier mind and body will contribute to better decision-making and resilience. Remind the struggling leader they cannot lead a team if they are burned out. And take this little quote I have found to be helpful.

“If you do not make time for your wellness, you will be forced to take time for your illness.”


Celebrate Small Wins

This is such great advice, not just for struggling leaders, but anyone. The best way to help someone change for the better is to celebrate their improvements and successes no matter how small. Help the leader recognize and celebrate even the smallest achievements. Acknowledging progress, no matter how incremental, can boost their morale and motivate them to continue working towards improvement. Success is often a matter of just staying in the game!

Create a Support Network

Connect the struggling leader with other leaders or professionals who have faced similar challenges. Sharing experiences and advice from those who’ve overcome similar hurdles can provide valuable insights and encouragement.

Supporting a struggling leader requires patience, empathy, and a commitment to their growth. Your assistance can be the catalyst for their transformation, helping them navigate their challenges and emerge as a stronger, more capable leader. By offering open communication, empathy, resources, and practical assistance, you contribute not only to their success but also to the overall health and productivity of the team or organization. Remember that leadership is a journey, and with your guidance, a struggling leader can navigate the rough patches and emerge as a shining example of resilience and growth.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Erik Murrah

Author, nerd, chess player, artist, business owner, runner, mediocre philosopher, outdoorsman. Creator of the Arise Tribe.

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