Leaders and problems - man worrying over problems in front of computer

You are a leader. And you are likely an excellent problem solver.

What many new leaders must learn is: what is needed most from you is different than it was when you were closer to the actual problem.

In your current role, what are the tasks that truly only you can do, the ideas that only you could have, or the communications that are only effective if they come from you? I bet you’ll find a few things that you can do lots better if given more attention. And I bet much more can be done through others, brilliantly. There’s magic in getting this right.

A leader’s role includes:

    • Setting the stage by creating an organizational culture where people see and improve what may become a problem before it does,
    • Nurturing the culture, especially with continuous and effective communication, and
    • Building others up, so that they solve problems early, individually and together
Set the stage for a problem-removing culture

It may feel like problems are not being addressed or resolved. I’ve had executives in leadership positions share their frustration with me that it seems employees aren’t looking beyond what they did yesterday to create a better tomorrow.

But I guarantee that those problems are frustrating for employees too. And if those closest to the work are not addressing them, it is likely that your work culture makes them feel incapable of taking on those problems themselves. As the leader, rather than running in to fix it, you need to work on the culture. Why aren’t people addressing the problems themselves?

Perhaps individuals are fearful of speaking out or stepping up. Perhaps they have learned that micromanagement is the way of working there, and it’s better to wait and be told what to do. Perhaps competition is the theme in the organization, not collaboration.

Discovering and addressing what you find is the first step in creating a culture where annoyances and problems are removed or solved early, before they grow into something that comes to you as a “fire” needing to be put out.

What are you communicating?

What I find, and know from my own experience, is that those of us who have the capacity to lead also have the capacity to solve problems. In fact, we love solving problems.

And we sometimes step out of our leadership role to solve the problem ourselves. We spend our energy showing our brilliance at solving problems when we should be focusing our energy on building up our culture and the people working with us. They need to be the solvers!

Leaders ask great questions; questions that get to the crux of a matter or expand minds to think more strategically about the future. Leaders lead.

Continuous communication and appropriate delegation are needed to nurture a culture that has those closest to the work solving their own problems and creating best practices to prevent future problems.

Build others up

Delegation is an excellent way to build others up. To delegate is to trust. When we trust employees to solve problems, we strengthen our relationship, and help others (and ourselves) grow and develop. We must set the stage (be proactive!) and communicate effectively to do so.


Revisit your strategic plan and look for areas where what people are doing (roles, process) and how they are being (culture) will likely need to change. Then identify who you might build up individually and within a team so that they figure out ways to execute strategy more brilliantly in the future. Without you.

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