The world is full of people chasing symptoms and ignoring causes. Entire industries exist to treat symptoms, convincing people that they are at least ‘doing something’ about their problems. It is not enough to be ‘doing something’; we must learn to do the correct things.
Leadership success is largely dependent upon one’s ability to think through situations and arrive at root causes. The best leaders identify problems, and then solve them.
My focus today is on identifying problems. I once had a neighbor who came and asked for my help in his house, saying he had a water problem. As I entered his house and looked down the hall I saw water everywhere flowing from his bathroom. It was evident he had been frantically mopping up water. As I walked through water into the bathroom I saw the toilet bowl was continually overflowing. The shut-off valve to the toilet was clearly visible on the wall. I simply said to my friend, “You need to shut the water off.” He had been mopping up the symptoms without addressing the problem. By shutting off the water flow he could then look into identifying what was causing the problem.
Some people never develop the ability to identify root causes. A leader must have the discipline to do the hard work of thinking through the tough issues in order to define them properly. This type of thinking is hard work. As Henry Ford once quipped, “Thinking is the hardest work there is. That’s why so few people engage in it.” But a leader does not have the option of avoiding this difficult work. In fact, this IS the work of a leader. Problems can be solved if and when they are properly identified and confronted head-on.
A wise man once said, “Learn to work at the roots and the leaves will take care of themselves.” Following is a little four-step thought process of examination that I have found on occasion helped with identifying and solving problems. If you are seeking to advance a certain cause or organization, take some time to thoughtfully think through these questions. Perhaps assemble your team and do this together as an exercise.
Great leaders are great listeners. As Christian leaders we listen first to the counsel of God’s Word and the voice of His Spirit. This exercise will provide an opportunity to discuss and listen to different viewpoints.
WHAT IS YOUR S.W.O.T.
ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
- WHAT IS OUR GREATEST STRENGTH?
- WHAT IS OUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?
- WHAT IS OUR GREATEST OPPORTUNITY?
- WHAT IS OUR GREATEST THREAT?