[June 3, 2016] A few days ago (as reported here in theLeaderMaker.com, link here), Journalist Katie Couric produced a gun documentary inserted an inappropriately and purposefully biased segment. Couric saw the bias but failed to recognize it as biased and deceptive; her reasoning we can only guess. But leadership means being able to recognize problems and then take corrective action.
When leaders fail to recognize a problem then it’s also likely they cannot bring forward the resources needed to properly deal with it. This is why alcoholics have trouble with liquor since they cannot see their drinking as their problem; everything else is a problem, just not the alcohol. When we are asked whether leaders have difficulty recognizing problems, the answer is usually “no.” However, many leaders do fail or are slow to recognize problems; their downfall often follows.
For example, critics of American and European political leaders say their politicians have failed to recognize an increase in world terrorism and its association with extremism in the religion of Islam. The result has been growth in terrorism for those countries that have allowed a rapid increase in Muslim immigrants and a backlash against those same governments. The backlash is growing and will continue as long as their politicians fail to admit a problem exists.
“I think that we have opportunities all around us – sometimes we just don’t recognize them.” – Lou Holtz, former American football player, coach, and sports analyst
Like recognizing that kids cannot read, this is the first step to getting them the right help; leaders must recognize a problem prior to fixing it. The answer is to understand why leaders don’t see a problem when others do is one of the more frustrating things about being a good leader. Often, the leader is too enmeshed in daily affairs and misses opportunities, issues, and problems. Other times a leader lacks the moral courage to address a problem directly or uses a belief system or ideology that may cloud their judgment.
Katie Couric failed to get her documentary right and has paid a price with her credibility and trustworthiness. But her example is not representative of first-rate leaders or even most leaders. Fortunately, the majority of leaders are actually pretty good at recognizing problems. The difficulty however is that even one missed problem can be trouble and while getting it mostly right is necessary, getting them all right is downright difficult.
Leaders, however, must recognize all problems – big problems at least – in their areas of responsibility and influence. Most are doing a good job, yet some high-profile leaders have failed to do so and subject their organizations to the peril of forces that they have overlooked.
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