I recently shared about how leaders seek to circumvent, minimize, and solve problems. The easiest problem to deal with is the one prevented before it even occurs. However, some crises come without warning or in spite of your best efforts to anticipate in advance. Effective leaders are problem solvers and I once read that you can judge one’s level of leadership by the size of the problems that he or she is tasked with addressing. They are effective because they recognize and utilize these three approaches to solving problems.
- Brains. That’s right. They use their brains. Here is the good news. A high I.Q. is advantageous but there is more to solving real world problems in your organization than the ability to solve a Rubik’s Cube in a short amount of time. Good problem solving takes a combination of intellect, education, training, experience, creativity, patience, assertiveness, risk, and street smarts. I am reminded of the truck that got stuck under an overpass and after several hours, the engineers were getting to the point of suggesting a major deconstruction of the bridge. That is until an uneducated farmer observed the situation and suggested that they try deflating the tires on the truck upon which it was removed within the next ten minutes. An effective leader feeds his or her intellect through life-long learning by formal (degrees) and informal (avid readers) means as well as being a student of leadership and problem-solving.
- Teamwork. Sometimes a problem needs more brain power than one person possesses. In addition, intelligence comes in more than one form. Everybody’s brain works a little different. Some people have mechanical intelligence, while others possess verbal intelligence, or musical ability, athletic or physical skills, logic skills, emotional intelligence, and on and on it goes. The combination is different for everyone. Once you mix in education and personal experiences, the blend is unique to each individual. That is why an effective leader will get the perspective and input of team members and trusted colleagues to find solutions. The bigger the problem the more likely the team is brought into the process. The collective I.Q., experience, and wisdom of a team will almost always exceed that of even the most gifted individual leader.
- Humility. This is the quality that separates the good leader from the great leader. Superman is a cartoon character, not a real person. Sometimes you need the help of an expert from outside of your organization. One of the most humbling experiences of my life was my inability to effectively parent a strong-willed child when she was a teenager. I had to get help and admit to myself my own shortcomings in being effective at solving the problems created by her rebellious nature. It was by the grace of God and the guidance of a skilled counselor over the course of a year that we advanced and ultimately solved a series of issues that could have been catastrophic but instead became a source of ultimate blessing and strength. Leaders are strong by nature and don’t like to admit their shortcomings. However, they place the needs of their organization, their church, or their followers ahead of their ego and do whatever it takes to get the job done. That sometimes requires the partnership of an expert from outside their circle, their staff, their church, or their organization.
I will add, in conclusion, that the inability or unwillingness of some to seek outside input or guidance is the reason that many people never maximize their leadership. Use your brain, consult with your team, but don’t be afraid to get the objective perspective of other skilled leaders from outside of your organization when you tackle the bigger problems that you face.