Every morning, when we wake up, put our work clothes on and head for whatever is in our Outlook or Calendar or Agenda, we are welcomed by a battalion of little problems. Occasionally they are not little. But most of the time, in normal times (?) they will be little. And there will be lots of them.
They are uninvited guests competing for your airtime. They have a strategy. They pretend they are big instead of little, so they wear the ‘sky is falling down’ uniform’ and the ‘deal with me now’ uniform. And many times, guess what, we are fooled by the look, smell and feel and we divert ourselves towards the battles. One by one.
Saddest thing is we don’t fight little problems with little battles, because the little problem is so skilful that it has managed to create a pseudo-Agamemnon scenario that, sure enough, requires The Mother of All Battles.
We are fooled yet again, it happened yesterday and the week before. We should have known that the sky has not fallen in previous cases, and that last week’s problem was a little red herring in wolf’s clothes. But, no. An alien observer would be forgiven for thinking that we are actually enjoying the daily welcoming by unwanted, unexpected and unscheduled little problems. After all, dealing with them, solving them, gives us a sense of worth and importance. We have been told that a good leader is responsive, reactive, somebody who addresses issues and grabs problems. That’s it, head on, with all the adrenaline of an alpha-man/woman you can use.
In a big crisis situation, the battalion of 09:15 a.m’s unexpected little problems, becomes irrelevant. We don’t have time for them. It would be sad to think that we need a big crisis to focus attention and save any adrenaline for the real thing. Indeed, many organizations become proficient in crisis solving because they are so good at them.
Leaders highest qualities, category 1, leadership scale 1, above all attributes are, in my view, the protection and creation of space and time. Starting with ourselves, then our responsibility for others. So avoiding the trap of responding to the Battalion of Little Problems is a premium skill. Yes, ignoring, bypassing, not greeting them with the usual ‘good morning problem, how lovely to see you again’.
Is there a risk? Of course there is. But by practicing this, you’ll become proficient in detecting the big ones dressed as little ones, and filtering them from the noise. So, instead of becoming proficient in addressing all possible problems of any form and shape at 09:15 a.m, you’ll master the freedom of time and space for you and others, your teams for example.
You’ll become a highly skilled strategist that only fights the real battles but not the imaginary ones. Your business performance will be explained in terms of the number of problems that you have decided not to address.
It will be refreshing and liberating. Occasionally you’ll miss a real wolf. Most of the time, you’ll navigate well.
Crafting your life in terms of the battles you decide not to fight is healthy. It’s also humble, an attribute that leaders need in the water supply.
For more thoughts on Leadership, you can purchase my latest book…..
Camino Leadership Notes on the Road
This is a collection of notes on leadership, initially written as Daily Thoughts, which started years ago as a way of talking to himself. Camino, the Spanish for road, or way, reflects on leadership as a praxis that continuously evolves. Nobody is ever a leader. Becoming one is the real quest. But we never reach the destination. Our character is constantly shaped by places and journeys, encounters and experiences. The only real theory of leadership is travelling. The only footprints, our actions. The only test, what we leave behind.
Watch the Camino webinar, where I discuss this book and my thoughts on Leadership.
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You can now read extracts from Chapter 1.