[September 4, 2019] Leadership is not easy; it means taking on complex, ambiguous, and difficult problems. These are closely tied to our deepest values and we are limited by cultural mores and social responsibilities. Solutions can be slow and are often fraught with unintended consequences.
When the government gets involved, it can bring enormous resources to bear; a huge advantage. This big stick does not guarantee success. For example, the U.S. government has thrown everything at solving high suicide rates among veterans, curing cancer and other terrible diseases, and preventing forest fires. These problems have been around so long; we hardly think about them disconnected from government intervention.
Powerful or popular leaders also don’t have the answers. John the Baptist couldn’t save the sinners, Hitler and Stalin couldn’t conquer the world, and Joe Paterno couldn’t win all his football games. Solutions, especially long-term solutions to the greatest problems, seem impossible to the casual observer. Easier, shorter-term, feel-good solutions are substituted and can these can boomerang to hurt.
There are formalized and proven leadership processes that help as a useful tool. The military uses the Military Decision Making Process, and it is very useful by laying out a clear logical path. Like other processes, however, it fails to work in unique situations when creativity is needed most. Even the military admits shortcomings and is working to modify the MDMP but, so far, has been unable to do so.
If leadership were easy, it would not be leadership but a simple habit. Want to be a great leader? Then the first thing to understand is that your life will be all about leadership. There is no part-time leadership; it’s all or nothing. It’s hard. It requires sacrifice. And leadership can be as rewarding as it is frustrating at times.
Only a very few can slay the dragon and rescue the princess. Only the rare, gifted person can convert chaos of the world into a predictable order. War, terrorism, famine, great catastrophes, the drug crisis, poverty, species extinction, and moral decay; chaos has been around since the beginning of humankind continue to plague us at every turn.
We rely on technology and gimmicks to pull us through, but in the end, it will be good old-fashioned leadership. Only leadership can overcome the chaos to help pull us through the bad times and show us the path in the good.
Note: See a different spin on this idea from an article I wrote three years ago called, “Senior Leaders Solve Difficult Problems” at this link: https://www.theleadermaker.com/senior-leaders-solve-difficult-problems/