View our FREE leadership webinar

What if I'm the problem? Every problem in business is a leadership problem.

What if I’m the problem? Every problem in business is a leadership problem.

That’s a bold statement, isn’t it?! The first time I heard one of my mentors say it, it bothered me. “Leaders” get a hell of a lot of bad press. I use inverted commas with the term leaders because it’s a seriously misunderstood term.

People are often seen as, or see themselves as leaders, by fact of the position they hold. We even have expressions such as Senior Leadership Teams, which reinforces this perception.

Oxford English dictionary perpetuates this with their definition of leadership, which is: “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country”. They have the exact same definition for the term “leader”.

The result of this as a belief, is people believe they are leaders just because they’re a manager. This is as far from true as it’s possible to be.

Many leadership experts will have different perspectives and definitions of types of leadership. One thing we all agree on though, is that leadership has absolutely nothing to do with your job title. This is the language I use for my definition of leadership:

“A set of behaviours that inspire, motivate, and encourage people to thrive”.

One thing I like to say is: leadership is a paradox. It’s simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing in the world. It’s the easiest because all we need to do is find out what motivates someone, and use that to inspire them to give you their best. It’s the hardest because every individual is motivated in different ways. Sometimes the difference is subtle, sometimes it’s huge.

Real leadership is hard work. It takes time, and it takes an awful lot of skill to get it right.

Consider this, would you trust someone to provide therapy if the only training they’ve had is one day a month, over six-months? You wouldn’t, would you?! Why? Because there’s an awful lot of knowledge required to be even a basic therapist.

Like a bad therapist, a poor leader can have a devastating impact on people. The similarity between leadership and therapy is the amount of psychology rooted within it.

How are people motivated? Why? Why do they behave in certain ways? How do they respond to challenge and/or stress? Why? What puts them into conflict? Why? How do they behave in conflict? How are they brought out of conflict? All of these of (and many more) are things that leaders need to be aware of to effectively motivate and inspire their team members. All of these are deeply rooted in psychology.

Does that mean you need to be a psychologist to be a leader? No, of course not. But an understanding of why people need to be led in certain ways is essential for you, them, your team, your department, and your business to thrive.

So, those people-related problems that exist within your business aren’t a leadership problem. They’re probably an absence of leadership problem. That means, if you’re a manager – at any level – if there are people related challenges in your team/department/business, the chances are you can find the root cause by looking in the mirror.

That’s a bold and divisive statement, isn’t it?! The truth is though, there’s a good chance that it’s not your fault.

In late 2023, the Chartered Management Institute released a study that stated that 82% of senior management have never had sufficient leadership development. That means there are an awful lot of “leaders” out there, who simply don’t know, what they don’t know.

Most of you reading this blog will undoubtedly be able to think of at least one person you’ve work for who you’d consider a toxic leader. A large chunk of those people (outside of work) are normal everyday people, liked by their friends, loved by their family. They’re normally decent people. In the workplace though, they were promoted for being good at the job they were doing. They’re now in a role that many of them have had no training in, no experience in, and are expected to deliver from day 1.

This is setting them up to fail as leaders. They might be able to manage effectively. Minimum targets are achieved, their personal output is probably still high, so they get promoted again. This time with further expectation of being able to lead. Now they’re responsible for leading subordinate leaders, but without the knowledge of how to lead effectively in the workplace.

This then becomes a very slippery slope towards high staff churn, high sickness absence, people challenges, and ultimately toxic workplace environments.

What’s the first thing that every senior manager need to do to solve a toxic workplace example? Look in the mirror and ask themselves: “what if I’m the problem?”.

Related Posts
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *