One of the most important functions of effective leadership is to master the power of perspective.
Leaders require the ability to look at problems and determine their relative size and importance.
“Is this a big problem, or a little problem?” “Of all of the problems facing our team, which is the most important, and which is the least?”
One piece of leadership counsel I learned from a mentor years ago has helped me immensely in making these determinations.
I was describing a financial challenge being faced by the organization I was leading at the time. This problem was keeping me up at night and this wise leader I was talking with could see the weight of the worry I was carrying.
After I had described the challenge in explicit detail, he asked me, “So, just how big a problem is this for you?”
I responded, “This is huge. This is crushing me.”
Then he said something that has stayed with me for years ever since.
“Any problem that can be solved with money is not a big problem. I’m not saying that a financial problem doesn’t have to be solved, and perhaps solved quickly. But in leadership you need to put things in perspective. And I’ll say it again, if the solution to the problem can be found in money, then in the big scheme of things you are not dealing with a big problem.”
I asked him to tell me what then does constitute a big problem.
“If someone on your team comes to you and says they have just received very bad medical news, that’s a big problem. If your kids are in trouble, that’s a big problem. If someone’s marriage is falling apart, that’s a big problem. These are life changing, emotionally devastating problems. By contrast, if you can fix it with money, I’ll say it again, that is not a big problem. It may be a difficult problem, but it is not a big problem.”
What does this mean for your leadership?
Learn to master the art of perspective. Determine what constitutes and big problem, and what doesn’t.
Learn the difference between a difficult problem and a big problem.
Don’t treat big problems as though they’re little problems, but don’t treat a little problem as though it were a big problem.
Because when it comes to alleviating leadership anxiety, a little perspective can go a long way.