Leaders - sometimes we’re the problem!

“There are no big problems, there are just a lot of little problems.” - Henry Ford

A story is told of an old guy driving home from work when his wife calls him on his cell phone.

“Phil,” she shouts in a panic. “Please be careful! I just heard on the news that some lunatic is driving the wrong way on Route 80.”

“Heck Doris, it’s not just one car,” he replies. “It’s hundreds of them!”

That humorous story is a reminder for all in leadership. For all the times we think we are the only ones who have it all together, we then come face to face with the reality that on any given day, we are the only one who doesn’t.

Sometimes we just have to drop all pretense and admit it. We are not immune to screw ups. Like everyone else, we’re human.

Leaders deal with problems all the time. Usually someone else’s. But sometimes we’re the problem. There are a few ways this plays out. Let me explain how. See if you can relate.


Leaders become part of the problem when we ignore problems. Leaders who ignore problems within their organizations - causing them to fester beneath the surface for far too long – only contribute to lingering morale issues. We become part of the problem when we refuse to address issues that have the potential to adversely affect our organization or our people.


Unlike the problems we see but ignore, leaders become part of the problem by denying certain problems exist. This can either be because we don’t want to believe it’s true, or because we are afraid of how it might reflect upon our leadership. Denying problems doesn’t make them go away. And when you, as a leader, continually deny the existence of issues going on within your organization, then, by default, you are part of the problem.


Not every problem that exists within your organization calls for your attention. Only the ones no one else can handle, or otherwise require additional personnel to solve, need our attention. We become part of the problem when we take ownership of every problem. Ask yourself this: If you have to solve every problem then what else are you meddling with that you shouldn’t?


Every leader is different and every leader has that one pet peeve that sets them off as nothing else will. It’s in times like this that leaders need to be self-aware enough to realize that they need to back off and not allow their own prejudices to disrupt things. What we obsess over, in the minds and eyes of our people, may be insignificant in light of the big picture. Pick your battles wisely and don’t fall on the sword for your trivial gripes.


As a leader, when we “solve” the same problems over and over again then we’re not really solving them. Band-aid approaches only last so long. We become part of the problem when the same problems surface time and again. Every leader faces problems and some of them will look familiar or recycled. So don’t look for the quick fix. Find a long term approach that will last for the long haul.

As leaders, we don’t always get things right and make our fair share of mistakes. While it may not be obvious to you, it is to those around you. But don’t let that deter you. The greatest problem is not found in making mistakes or in getting things wrong. The problem is found in failing to acknowledge and learn from them.

Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?

©2019 Doug Dickerson

Read more at https://www.dougdickerson.net/

Daniel Island Publishing

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Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

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