Problem solvers look at circumstances with a critical eye, never assuming systems work as well as they should. They’re motivated by risk mitigation and view problems in procedures or systems as weaknesses that jeopardize their future.
Many employees long for leaders who can solve workplace problems—from flawed systems and procedures to inconsistent policies and managers. They want their leaders to see through the trees and attack forest-sized issues, with the discernment and authority to fix them one by one.
In our fast-paced world, important issues never become simpler, only more complex. You have less time to take each course of action and make each choice, with an ever-increasing impact on outcomes. Decisions that don’t go well are critiqued and analyzed. The need to make good decisions has never been more paramount—not just for leaders’ well-being, but for everyone under their authority.
An organization’s health is only as sound as its leader’s decisions. Some companies prosper from wise leadership directions, while others struggle after flawed choices—the kind that receive extra publicity because of the adverse impact on their organizations, people and communities.
Leaders who convert critiques into improvements develop the strongest followings and have the fewest fears. They not only welcome feedback, but they request it. They view constructive feedback as free self-development lessons.
Self-confident leaders have a support network of solid relationships, which helps reduce fears and fosters unity. Trusted and respected friends can offer critiques without causing offense. We know our friends won’t discard us, which diminishes any fears of rejection. Building relationships with colleagues and subordinates similarly helps you grow and improve.
A lack of self-confidence causes leaders to second-guess themselves and doubt their own abilities. This stifles progress, and the entire organization perceives what’s happening. Unconfident leaders cause staff to lose trust and hope. Everything tumbles downhill from there.
Fearful leaders often cannot deal with difficult issues or conversations, so moderate troubles balloon into true crises. They also resist taking the risks necessary to move their companies forward. Fears can take many forms: discomfort, incapacity, negative feelings, failure and self-criticism. Each carries numerous side effects, most rooted in a fear of rejection. Fears make a leader ineffective and paralyzed. Plans are often forfeited, as is success.
Companies face myriad threats: a volatile economy, politics, cost overruns, competition and disruptive technology, among others. But there’s a particular internal threat that can dwarf them: fear at the leadership level. Fearful leaders often cannot deal with difficult issues or conversations, so moderate troubles balloon into true crises. They also resist taking the risks necessary to move their companies forward.
When leaders have a more positive character, their thoughts, behavior, instincts and responses are more receptive to organizational needs. They see a brighter future in which problems become opportunities.