Every day someone in the world of leadership is wrestling with a problem. Large or small, technical or adaptive, leaders can struggle to figure out how to solve these problems within their organization and the ones outside their organization in an efficient and cost effective manner. Sometimes they struggle with decision-making. Other days it is with how to communicate the solution in order to generate buy-in. But what ever the case, problems and leadership go hand in hand.
For me as an executive coach, consultant and teacher, I have been thinking recently about leadership and problem solving because I read the following quote by Eric Sevareid: “The cause of problems is solutions.” When I first came across this quote in an essay by Margaret Wheatley, I had to stop and reflect. I spend hours helping leaders figure out how to solve problems. Yet, I have to take the long view and realize that today’s solutions could create long term problems. Fixing an operational issue could have long term strategic impact. Fixing a strategic problem may cause many operational issues.
From my perspective, it all comes down to The Law of the Whole, namely “Change in one part influences and changes all other parts.” Our challenge as leaders is not to just solve the immediate problem but to also think through what could be and what will be impacted by the solutions proposed. As we do this, we will make better choices. For when it comes to exploring the relationship between problems and solutions, it all comes down to making thoughtful choices.
Remember: Leadership can be hard. Problem-solving will not always be easy. However, it is imperative that we make the best choices and to think through the short and long term implications of these choices.