A leader’s primary task is to proffer solution to problems. A leader’s failure to solve problems puts a big question mark on his suitability for the role. Problems usually manifest in different forms and shades but whatever the shape a problem takes, the leader’s business is to proffer a solution to it. He may provide the solution directly or by working through others. The strategy adopted or deployed by the leader to solve the problem is secondary, what is important is showing the way out of the quandary.
However, it is not every leader that is able to solve the problem posed by the situation the organization he leads finds itself. This is usually not for lack of capacity but because many of the leaders who fail to solve problems never see themselves as being tougher or stronger than the problem.
For a leader to proffer a solution to a problem, he must first get to the point that he does not see the problem as being beyond his capacity to tackle. He must see himself as able to untangle the puzzle posed by the situation. When a leader is of the opinion that a problem is beyond his capacity, he gets overwhelmed by it and he is unable to come up with the initiative that can make the problem history. Once he gets to that point, his leadership begins to head for the south. Every leader encounters one problem or the other every time; it is only those who prove tougher, stronger and more determined than their most challenging problems that excel.
Many of those who feel overwhelmed by problems always start on a faulty premise; they always wish that things were easier for them. They always wish that they were not the ones to handle such ‘a difficult problem.’ They always wish that they had a less onerous situation to handle. They erroneously believe that they are unable to do much because of the enormity of the challenge that they encounter and hope for something less taxing. But as counseled by Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur and author, it is unwise to wish that things were easier or that the situation was less challenging, rather it is better to wish that one was better and stronger. Those who are better and stronger than their challenges will always overcome those challenges. On the contrary, those who wish that things were easier never get round to fixing the problem they encounter. The reason is simple; the moment a person begins to wish that things were easier he has surrendered to the situation. Consequently, he is unable to task his brain to generate a solution to the problem. There is no problem that is beyond the capacity of the human brain to tackle. Any problem that remains unsolved is so because enough thinking has not been done towards finding a solution to it. The only impossibilities that exist are the ones allowed in the imagination.
Leaders are remembered for three things; the problems they solved, the problems they created and the problems they permitted. Those who are remembered for the problems they solved are treated as heroes while those remembered for the problems they either created or permitted are viewed as villains.
Why leaders are overwhelmed by problems
Being overwhelmed by situations is a matter of choice. So, leaders who are overwhelmed are those who either subject themselves to that situation or allow themselves to be subjected to it. This happens for a number of reasons. Let’s consider some of them.
Lack of hunger for legacy
One of the factors that keep leaders going in spite of the numerous challenges they encounter is the desire to bequeath a legacy. Being in a leadership position is a rare privilege to make a positive impact on the people and the organization. The higher the position a leader occupies in an organization or nation, the better his chances are to leave an imprint on the people and the organization or nation. So, a leader who is propelled by the hunger to make an impact will never allow himself to be overwhelmed by any situation. Instead of being overwhelmed by the challenging situation, he will think outside the box to solve the riddle posed by the situation. But a leader who is not legacy-conscious will not travel that route. At the sight of the least of difficulties, he quakes and throws up his arms in surrender.
Murtala Muhammed’s legacy
The late General Murtala Muhammed was in office as Nigeria’s head of state for barely six months but he was able to leave a legacy as the nation’s first serious campaigner against corruption. By the time he assumed office, corruption was widespread and entrenched in the country, especially in government ministries and agencies. But in spite of the involvement of many well heeled and high placed people in the ignoble deed, he did not feel intimidated by it. He knew what he wanted to do and went ahead to do it. He moved against corruption in an unprecedented manner, felling along the way everyone suspected of involvement in the inglorious act. Hence, despite being in office for a very short time, he is still a reference point 42 years after his gruesome murder.
What was General Muhammed’s motivation? He had the mind to leave a mark; he was driven by the urge to leave a legacy. That is why the enormity of the task did not overwhelm him. He saw himself as being able to handle the situation and he did handle it very well.
Not concentrating on the positives
One of the requirements of great leadership is incurable optimism. According to Napoleon Bonaparte, leaders are dealers in hope. So, leaders are supposed to deliberately look for the bright sides of a gloomy situation and proceed from there.
If an employee is discouraged there is still hope for the organization. But when it is the leader that is disheartened the company is doomed. The reason is that every member of the group takes a cue from the leader. If they get a feeling that the leader is overwhelmed by the situation they also become weighed down and the problem becomes insuperable.
So, not concentrating on the positives of a situation can get a leader and his team members to become overwhelmed. When the leader only talks about negatives or difficulties, he drains his team of the energy required to overcome the situation. So, while great leaders do not ignore the negatives outright, they do not pay too much attention to those sides; they concentrate more on the positives knowing that the successes recorded from those ones will give the impetus required to surmount the problems posed by the negatives.
A leader should never lose focus of why he is in office. Every leader in business or government is in office to render services that will solve one problem or the other. Often, leaders overlook this salient fact; they think the office is about them. The raison d’être of every office is the service it can render to its publics. So, the office is not about the leader, it is about those the leader is meant to serve.
If a leader has this understanding, he does not look for an excuse when there is a problem, what he does is to find a way out of the conundrum. Instead of thinking up an excuse, the leader should travel into the recesses of his mind and get a solution to the problem. As observed by Jim Rohn, “If you really want to do a thing, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse.” Outstanding leaders always find a way; ordinary ones always make do with excuses. But those who make excuses hardly make any other thing. That is what makes them ordinary.
Leveraging others’ strengths
Leadership is about the ability to harness the strength of others to achieve predetermined goals. When a leader is unable to do this, it is easy for him to get overwhelmed by challenges.
Father and son
A boy was trying to lift a luggage all by himself while his father was watching. He tried all he could to lift the luggage but he was unable to. His father prodded him to try and use all the resources available to him to lift the luggage. The boy tried again but to no avail. He then told his father that he had utilized all his energy and resources but still could not lift the luggage. It was then the father told him that he should have asked him for assistance because he (the father) was part of the resources available to the boy.
Leaders need to be able to leverage the strengths, skills, energies, competences and abilities of those they work with. They should be able to optimize the resources of others. It is only then that those ones get better and the organization becomes stronger. What leaders need to realize is that while individuals may have weaknesses, a properly constituted team is not supposed to have any. A team should be an agglomeration of a people who make up for one another’s weaknesses. But having a team of diverse competences is not a guarantee for success. The onus is on the leader to identify the specific competences of each member and put same to use for the good of the organization as occasions demand.
Leaders get stuck in the rut of difficulty when they fail to change their thinking about the situation. To get a new result, the leader must do a new thing. So, when there is a problem, the leader and his team must look at the situation with new eyes or from a different angle to have a new perspective of it and come up with a new strategy to handle it. As observed by Einstein, “We can’t solve problems at the same level of thinking we used when we created them.” The fact is that every problem is a creation of a thought process. The thinking that produced the problem cannot also produce the solution. To bounce out of that situation requires a thinking that is different from the one that created it. That is why when a new leader gets into office he is able to effect some changes that the former incumbent had thought was impossible. The new man got a different result because he got into the office with a different thinking. If a leader will look at a situation from a different perspective, he will be able to generate the much needed solution. But when a leader fails to do this and keeps repeating the same strategy that had failed before, he gets overwhelmed and he is consumed by the thinking that the challenge is insurmountable.
Problems surrender to determined and creative leaders.Read Full Story