Earlier this month Mike Huckabee interviewed three freshman Congressman on his TV show. He asked about their biggest surprises since coming to Congress.
Each answer was interesting. But one was particularly intriguing.
The Congressman said, "I’ve been amazed at how much time we spend talking about problems and how little time we give to finding solutions." He went on to say that Congress, of all places, should be where people look for solutions.
His words apply equally to leadership. In a recent LeaderPerfect Tweet Tip I noted that "Leadership never forgets the problem, but it maintains its focus on solutions."
It’s far easier for people (leaders included) to identify problems than to work out solutions. But the reason that we need leaders is because we need solutions. We turn to leaders to provide them or to provide mechanisms for finding them.
It would be interesting to chart our leadership conversations and find out what percentage of time is given to lamenting problems and what percentage is given to seeking creative solutions. It takes no particular genius to point out what’s wrong with things. It takes persistence and hard work to find lasting solutions.
That’s why laziness is never becoming to a leader. Lazy people can be adept at pointing out problems. But they rarely spearhead solutions.
Simply put, if there were no problems to solve, there would be no need for leadership. Leaders are problem-solvers, first and foremost.
In a simpler day, when societies were built around clans and tribes, the problems demanding leadership were also simpler. One exceptional person could easily embody all of the requisite wisdom needed to offer solutions to the most urgent problems.
With each advance in social complexity, the complexity of the leadership challenge grows, as well. Leaders move from being the singular source of solutions to being facilitators who enable a solution-finding process. But the leadership task remains the same: finding solutions.
Forty years ago I heard a group of ministers bemoaning the fact that so many colleagues were leaving ministry. The group began enumerating various church problems which were triggering this exodus. Meanwhile an older man in the group remained silent, never uttering a word.
Noticing his silence, the group finally asked his feelings on the subject. He replied, "The way I see it, the only reason that we need ministers is because there are problems to solve. So when people tell me that they are leaving ministry because there are too many problems, it just may be that they entered ministry for the wrong reasons in the first place."
The same may be said of leaders in every sphere. Leaders exist to steer the solution-finding process. When we lose sight of this reality, we veer off course as leaders, leaving problems to fester and organizations to languish.