[September 12, 2016] As part of our physical fitness training in the Army, my fellow soldiers and I regularly negotiated the standard obstacle course. Its purpose was to challenge us to find ways to successfully navigate through the many barriers (and have a little fun that I never seemed to have). Yet, leaders face many other types of complex and exasperating obstacles.
“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” – Christopher Columbus
As leaders we are judged by how well we overcome obstacles. Fundamentally, those who are wise know that adversity actually strengthen leaders and make them better. The harder the “kick in the teeth,” the better the leader can be; it may be the best thing for leadership development.
Many times over the last few years, I’ve discussed how leaders must learn to deal with those obstacles. I’ve dealt with the issue generically and grouped all obstacles into a single category but only on an occasion or two have I given specifics. Below are some of the daily obstacles that leaders encounter:
- The lure of tactical efforts over strategic thinking.
- A focus on email, phone calls, and other trivia over people issues.
- A lack of moral courage among other senior leaders.
- The lack of authority to resolve an issue or problem.
- Neglect of long-range planning and transformation.
- The physical and mental health of leaders and workers.
- Obsolete schools for training of leaders/managers.
- Overreliance on technology as a solution.
- The search for the perfect employee and ideal team.
- Using the “our problems are different” excuse.
- Reliance on statistics and quality control measures for decision making.
- Blaming the workforce for problems.
- Strict adherence to established procedures and standard operating principles.
- The attractiveness of easy, off-the-shelf solutions.
- Failure to quickly deal with toxic leaders.
These are certainly not trivial issues. For example, many will think that the physical health of a leader or worker is no big problem. “They’ll get well soon enough and be back,” we tell ourselves. Yet one of the biggest problems in any organization is that a significant proportion of the workforce is unhealthy; either physically or mentally. Time is taken from the senior leader’s schedule to work through the problems these obstacles bring.
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