The Three Biggest Challenges Faced by New Finance Leaders

3 biggest challenges faced by new finance leaders

Finance leaders face various challenges that can impact their effectiveness and success. These challenges can be categorised into three broad areas: making more impact, interacting with others, and delivering responsibilities.

When you move into a new finance role, you need to be effective right from the beginning. To be successful, you must rise to these challenges straight away. Three main things will hold you back, and we’ll explore each in more depth in future newsletters.

Let’s explore each of these challenges in more detail.

  1. Making an Impact: Finance leaders need to contribute towards strategy, make a significant impact during board meetings, and overcome self-doubt. You can demonstrate your value and justify your role by actively involving yourself in strategic decision-making. Making a solid impact during board meetings enhances your reputation and allows you to influence important decisions. Overcoming any lack of confidence and feeling inadequate is crucial for fulfilling your potential and thriving in your role.
  2. Interacting with Others: Building more robust relationships, enhancing communication skills, and improving gravitas and perception are key challenges for finance leaders. Strong relationships with key individuals in the workplace are essential for collaboration, influence, and effective teamwork. Effective communication lets you convey your ideas, gain buy-in, and build rapport with stakeholders. Developing gravitas and perception helps you establish yourself as a credible and influential individual within the organisation.
  3. Delivering Responsibilities: Delivering responsibilities involves tackling challenges related to avoiding overwhelm, maximising team performance, and influencing and obtaining buy-in. You often face a high volume of tasks and responsibilities, which can overwhelm you and hinder your ability to focus on value-enhancing activities. You can improve your performance and contribute more to the organisation’s success by delegating tasks and developing your team’s capabilities. Additionally, influencing others and obtaining buy-in is crucial to drive change, implement initiatives, and achieve your goals.

What holds you back?

Typically, there are three significant issues you will need to address early in your new finance leader role. You need to be aware of these from day one and build strategies to combat each.

Imposter syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a pervasive challenge that affects around 80% of finance leaders. It is characterised by self-doubt, inadequacy, and the fear of being exposed as a fraud. Many finance leaders face situations where they are stepping up into top roles, representing the company externally, or being the boardroom’s youngest and least experienced person. These circumstances can amplify the Imposter Syndrome experience.

You must acknowledge your imposter syndrome early in your first 100 days and address it head-on.

Typical challenges you face with Imposter Syndrome include working outside of your comfort zone, taking on unfamiliar tasks, and grappling with the absence of clear-cut answers. The lack of industry knowledge compared to your peers can also contribute to feelings of insecurity. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome requires building confidence, seeking mentorship, and recognising your achievements and capabilities.

Feeling overwhelmed with tasks

Finance leaders are often burdened with numerous responsibilities, leading to a constant feeling of overwhelm. You may find yourself taking on tasks outside the realm of finance simply because no one else is available or capable of handling them. The inability to delegate effectively and a lack of support from the team can exacerbate this challenge. Additionally, as companies grow, the workload often increases without a corresponding expansion of the finance team.

Overwhelm can start early in your new role. Your team is an unknown quantity, and the extent of your remit might need to be clarified. You likely don’t understand how things get done in your new organisation.

To address this challenge, you should focus on optimising your workload by prioritising tasks, delegating where possible, and developing the necessary skills within your team. Implementing efficient processes and systems can streamline operations and provide structure to handle new business demands. Investing in skill development and hiring the right talent can alleviate the burden, allowing you to focus on value-added activities.

Contributing more to strategy

Finance leaders are expected to contribute to strategic decision-making processes actively. However, many need help to free up time to think strategically or feel unsure about contributing effectively. You may find yourself excluded from crucial decisions or need more toolkits to document and deliver the strategic plan.

Exclusion can start in the first 100 days in the organisation. You are likely the least experienced leadership team member; you might need more industry knowledge and have not been part of some of the recent critical decisions made before your appointment.

To overcome this challenge, you should proactively seek opportunities to engage in strategic discussions and align yourself with the organisation’s objectives. This can involve actively participating in cross-functional meetings, collaborating with other departments, and expressing your interest in contributing to strategic initiatives. Seeking mentorship or training in strategic planning can also enhance your capabilities in this area.


You will face various challenges that can impede your personal and professional growth. Addressing these right from the start is essential. Imposter Syndrome, task overwhelm, and the need to contribute more towards strategy are three significant challenges highlighted time and again by the finance leader community. By recognising and addressing these challenges head-on, you can develop strategies to build confidence, optimise your workload, and actively contribute to strategic decision-making processes. Through continuous learning, mentorship, and a proactive approach, you can overcome these obstacles and unlock your full potential as an influential and impactful leader in your organisation.

Want to find out more?

I chatted with Dan Wells about these challenges in episode 55 of The GrowCFO Show.

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