Being a leader can be a rewarding experience but it also means facing a host of anticipated and unexpected challenges. Learning how to respond to these challenges will help you grow and mature as a leader. As you learn to deal with difficult situations, you will hone your leadership skills. Don't be discouraged — becoming an effective leader takes time and patience.

Handling Conflicts

Handling conflicts in the workplace is an unsavory task for a leader, but a necessary one. The best scenario is one where employees work out their disagreements between each other. If the employees cannot overcome their differences, you must step in as a leader to resolve the conflict before the situation gets out of hand. Do not call out the employees involved in the conflict in front of their coworkers. Invite them to a private meeting and ask them to calmly discuss the matter with you. You must handle conflicts with a firm, yet gentle hand.

Avoiding Favoritism

Favoritism does exist in the workplace; but you, as a leader, should never be guilty of it. This could be particularly difficult if family members are a part of your organization, but it is not only family a leader who must be concerned with playing favorites. You must be careful not to base promotions or better working conditions on close friendships or romantic involvements. Favoritism can be a motivation killer in the workplace.

Avoiding Discrimination and Prejudice

It is against the law to discriminate against an employee because of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. While there may not be open discrimination going on at the office, a leader should be aware the of subtle ways by which prejudice and discrimination can occur. These include excluding a person from social events, disproportionately giving unfavorable job assignments, or simply avoiding the employee. Discrimination and prejudice have no place on the job, and effective measures should be taken to avoid it. Have an open-door policy so that any employee who feels he's a victim of workplace discrimination can discuss the issue with you.

Balancing Authority

Everyone wants to be liked by their peers, and sometimes leaders walk a fine line between being the employees' friend and also their boss. If you are too authoritarian in your leadership style, employees may become dejected and lack motivation. Likewise, being too lax or letting people slack will lend to an unproductive work environment. Your employees should respect your authority while still feeling you are a leader they can communicate their concerns to.

Building a Consensus

Few decisions come without compromise. A difficult task of leadership is to help people compromise and reach a consensus. The effective leader must clearly present all sides to an argument, while letting everyone's voices be heard. If concerns exist about the decision, each one must be addressed and dealt with. If a deadlock presents itself, you may have to begin the process again until a consensus decision can be gained.