Maybe You’re The Problem

Darin Rowell, executive leadership coach


If you’re not experiencing the results that you want from your career, your teams, or your life, where do you look first? To your superiors, your teams, the external environment, or to yourself? The best leaders that I’ve worked with always look to themselves first for the source(s) of problem.  

In certain circumstances, it’s evident that the leader’s actions or inactions might be causing or at least contributing to the problem. Such as when the leader has defined 28 “top priorities” for her team to focus on. The inevitable result – a team that’s distracted and delivering results that are accordingly diluted.  

In other circumstances, the leader’s accountability for the problem might not be as evident. For example, several years ago, a leader brought me in to assess the poor performance of a senior team that reported to him. 

After a full analysis, it became clear that the majority of the performance challenges came from two areas a) the particularly disruptive behavior of one team member and b) two other members whose role responsibilities had outgrown their current capabilities. The leader listened thoughtfully as I reported my conclusions and recommendations. When I finished, he replied, “I think you’re spot-on with your recommendations, but we’re not starting with the team, we’re starting with me”. 

He went on to explain that regardless of the issues with specific team members, it was something within his leadership that enabled or at least allowed the situation to reach the point that it had. He then shared some wisdom that has shaped my perspective on leadership since: “If I start by placing the blame anywhere except with myself, I’m choosing to be a victim and shirking my own accountability.  I haven’t gotten to where I have in my life by being a victim. It’s got to start with me.”

I believe that all leadership starts by first taking full accountability for our influence in all situations. This requires us to always ask how we might be the problem, or at least a part of the problem, in all situations. This approach to leadership and life will result in uncomfortable realizations about yourself and your behavior. (Trust me, I have plenty of personal examples of this.) However, this approach also leads to major growth and to greater influence and impact in all areas of life. 

Don’t take my word for it, start by asking yourself – “How am I creating the challenges that I’m currently facing?” 

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