The Dilemma Of Leadership

Like a great mechanic, a great leader has many tools. Tools both to aid listening and tools to help decision-making. The key is not using a hammer when a wrench is needed and vice versa.

Leaders are able to utilize numerous tools in the right situations. When the house is on fire, it is not the right time to gather input or brainstorm. Rather, we need to act and Just Get Out!

We all have certain skills we like to use. Those skills and talents that have carried us successfully throughout our education and our relationships. But maybe our toolkit should expand, as our roles and responsibilities grow. We wonder how we are going to survive and resolve key challenges with teams and problems as we seem to rely on our “strengths.” After all, we have had success so far using our existing toolkit, and in many  cases we are already the leader.

  • If your strength is analysis leading to action; then it seems that all problems require more analysis leading to more action. Sometimes compassion, admitting mistakes, and listening are far more important components to team-building, engagement, results, and productivity.  
  • If your talents and skills, like our hammer, are not getting you where you want to go, the answer is not always to simply start banging faster and harder. If amazing communication skills have gained us great success in past decisions, sometimes simply talking more or relationship building for getting future success may not be the right solution. What may be required is more data, analysis, and research leading to better evidence and facts.

IQ is of little value when EQ is required.   

Smart people tend to rely on facts too much. Kodak missed digital photography, and they had the first camera! ATT missed the cell phone market and had the first phone! Many smart people with great line-ups of facts missed huge markets, due to relying simply on those facts to tell the whole story. If we don’t slow down, delegate, or evaluate problems from new perspectives we can get stuck. It’s like in golf – when we really want to get out of that sand trap. We bring our Big Bertha wood driver to blast the golf ball out of the sand – it doesn’t work, but it sure does makes a mess! I see leaders who act like big drivers pushing sand everywhere trying to dislodge a group of people like they are “stubborn” golf balls.

There is a high importance placed on business decisions being right. And so much so, we place such a value on rightness, that we have to be right about everything, and we’ve lost our sense of priorities. Greatness is less about our tools, and more about gaining access to a much larger toolkit – called your network.   

Your network is your net worth.

Commitment to action is best inspired in teams and individuals. Otherwise, “change”  programs will not get implemented. New products will not get successfully launched. And all these may have been the right decision on paper and in formula, but executed improperly. If people are not engaged, then little good happens. And likewise, if people are motivated and committed, with no clear direction, vision, or clarity of how work will get done, then little good happens.

I see the poor manager as someone adding more pressure by restating a critical timeline, when that individual or team is already under fire. Like that is going to help. That’s not leadership, that’s dictatorship or abuse.

We are so consumed with results, and results the way we got them in the past, that we have a hard time changing tools. Great leaders, know when certain tools are needed, and if that tool is not in their tool bag, they learn how to use new tools or they get help. They don’t try to make a hammer do a wrench’s job.

Leadership success is the hammer and the wrench – but more important than being a good hammer or a good wrench, is critically knowing when and how to use them. And who is better at using certain tools  and recruiting people with the right toolkits than you?

Bang Hard or Twist Slow, that is the question – welcome to the dilemma of leadership.


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