There is an issue at work, people are upset. Everyone blames leadership and by leadership we mean you. Everyone is mad at you, again. Why is everyone so critical? Why does everyone always look at the leader when the messy stuff hits the fan and splatters all over the walls of the organization?
Leaders (or "leaders") can respond a few ways to issues each with corresponding consequences: A) Face them; B) Ignore them; or 3) Disappear (hide)
If the leader chooses Option A - face the issues - then there will be a process of gathering data (what happened), extracting truth from the data (or the attempt thereof) and making conclusions from the process (right or wrong). Whether management completes each step with flawless logic and execution or not, leaders that dare to engage (who are so brave as to do what they were hired for) will find that their teams respond to their efforts.
There is a difference between ignorance and ignoring, this is the difference between the manager who was not aware that something was wrong and the manager who is aware but who's resolution strategy is in hoping that the office fairies will float the conflicts away so that they don't have to manage them. For most teams, there is as much frustration when a problem is brought to the attention of management and those leaders (with their extra zeros behind their annual salary) either ignore the issues or the boss disappears from the fray. In these scenarios, the team begins to conclude that leadership isn't necessary and management by their actions proves that their teams conclusions are functionally valid.
For those in management that are tempted to employ the time tested tactics of Ignore and Hide (some may have proudly earned their degree in I&H), often the philosophy behind such actions revolve around the defeatist attitude of, "It can't be fixed anyways so why even try." Managers may be in a situation or a frame of mind where they feel that their team expects them to know everything and do everything correctly or perhaps the leader expects this of themselves.
Leadership Key - Leadership is not about being omniscient. Leaders are not expected by their teams to know everything but they are expected to deal with issues when they are brought to light. A leader who places the burden of omniscience on themselves either views themselves far too highly or has been poorly mentored.
Managers must understand that they are not god or Kuthulu, but as importantly a leader cannot be an ostrich (if you're slow that means don't bury your head in the sand). Leaders should not practice willful ignorance as this will frustrate your team far beyond whatever issue it was that they brought to management's attention.
Like those books of our youth that had the multiple choice plot line pivots, when next the team brings a matter before the high council will our exciting lead character, The Manager (dun-dun-dun), choose to:
A) Rise to the occasion and courageously perform the duties of their role by executing the aforementioned process of bringing resolution to the best of their ability.
B) Take the ostrich approach and hope the issue passes by before the sand their head is buried in suffocates the life from their weak body.
C) Exercise their one super power of disappearing whenever the heat rises in the organization's kitchen.
While the writing quality of this piece is far superior to anything the reader has ever invested five minutes of their life on, it would be a shame to miss the point. To summarize what should be taken from the dried ink of these qwerty typed exclamations - if you are a leader you need to lead. One of the key tests of leadership merit and/or efficacy occurs when the team cares enough to bring an issue to management's attention, in that moment, a leader will demonstrate the need for their abilities or will prove otherwise.
Key to leadership is understanding that leading is not about being omniscient but rather about being consistent. As a leader, the effort to address issues will prove much more positive long term to the health and engagement of the team than the absolutely detrimental effects of ignoring or hiding from challenges.
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Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.