Our Work Begins When Problems Start The Nature of Leadership
As a leader, how do you feel when problems arise?
Two weeks ago, Facebook was confronted with a widespread security breach. As a result, fifty million people’s personal data has been compromised. Now the top brass at Facebook has to testify before congress. Imagine you’re the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
What must leaders do when faced with problems, big or small?
My first instinct when problems arise is to cringe. Oh man, here we go again. I have to go fix this mess. Do you ever feel that way? If you do, it’s normal. But we must quickly remind ourselves that when problems look us square in the eye, that’s when our role as leaders is triggered. Until that point, we are waiting in the dug out—anticipating the call that ushers us onto the field.
But haven’t we worked hard enough, sweated, sacrificed, trained, promoted, and built enough? How long must we face issues? When we lead, we must be always be ready to address problems. It is the nature of leadership.
This constancy of the battles of leadership reminds me of when my wife and I moved into our current home shortly after we got married. We were so excited about having a pool. I had never had one before. The pool looked like a pristine body of water that seemed easy to maintain, almost automatic—simply have someone maintain the chemicals once a week, I thought. A year and a half later, I have come to know that maintaining a pool is not that simple, and certainly not automatic.
The wind blows leaves into the pool. We clean the filters. Then the pump goes out. We change the pump, then the sweeper gets a ball get stuck in it (from playing fetch with our dogs). Now the bottom is dirty and the filter can’t keep up. I have discovered that the pool requires the owner, the leader, to watch over it, to anticipate problems and maintenance, and accept that he must do what needs to be done.
Even with the best systems and people in place, problems will still occur with pools, and in leadership.
What do you do when confronted with big or small problems, people issues, organizational challenges, existential matters that may even threaten the core of your organization causing you to question if you will survive to the next day?
The answer: You must handle it. You must handle it with ferocity and strength. That’s what Mark Zuckerberg must do. That’s what you and I must be ready to do every single day we lead.
In grade school a bell rang at the end of recess to indicate it was time to go back inside. All the students promptly stood in line. Like a bell, problems should summon us to attention. It’s as if the ringing bell says, “A leader is needed.”
I pray that you always stand ready and willing to face whatever challenges come your way.
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