The Essence of Leadership

     Bill Buckley

The Essence of LeadershipThere are 2 axioms of leadership: 1) “good leaders are made, not born,” and 2) “to achieve the essence (heart) of leadership you must study and practice the essence of leadership.”  What is the essence of leadership?  When the terms “essence of leadership” are googled you receive back over 39 million responses-an ocean of articles, opinions and recommended courses to take in order to understand the essence of leadership.  So what is the essence of leadership?

We can find the essence of leadership by studying the actions of many great leaders.  Leaders solve problems; good leaders solve problems effectively.  What does “effective problem solving “mean?   Effective problem solving is “implementing the correct solution to the right problem with in the given time frame using the resources and material available”.  How can this be accomplished?


There are four (4) basic steps we can take to accomplish solving problems effectively.  The four steps are as follows:

  1. Identify the problem or problems.
  2. Develop the correct solution.
  3. Implement the solution.
  4. Review, evaluate and document.

Realize that these steps are not conclusive.  You may have to add additional steps depending on the problem or problems you are facing.

There are certain actions or activities we must take within each step to accomplish the step.  Once again, this is not a conclusive list and should be added to depending on the situation.  I will use an acronym within each step as a memory method to remember the actions.

Step One – Identify the problem or problems (S.O.R.T.)

  1. Separate the problems – I include plural in problem because usually there is not just one problem but many other problems created off of the major problem.  This will involve separating the problems and looking at them individually.  Include the items that may be perceived to be a problem as well. 
  2. Organizational (structure) or function (process) and its impact.  Determine the category that each problem may fall in.  Organizational problems tend to be more people and procedure orientated verses function which tends to be more computer or technically oriented.
  3. Resources – Based on the category above do you have the right skills available to solve each problem?
  4. Timeframe  - Guess the time frame you believe it will take to solve each of the problems listed, and determine if that total time will fit within the time frame you were given.  You may have to request an extended time frame at this point in the process.

Step Two –Develop the correct solution.  (R2.L.E.S. or to put another way, squirrels don’t create business problems.)

  1. Reoccurring - Determine if this is a repeat problem or if someone else has experienced the same or similar problem in other areas of the company, division or in a like industry.  In other words don’t reinvent the wheel.  A solution may be at hand.
  2. Recreate - If you can, recreate the problem(s) and run a test using the listed solutions to see if they solve the problem.  This will cut down the problem solving time considerably.
  3. List possible solutions – List any and all.  Tell your staff to suggest even off-the-wall solutions.
  4. Evaluate through testing – Solution can possibly spawn other problems or affect other operations or processes. Determine if there is a budget impact for implementing the solution(s).
  5. Select the correct solution – At this point, determine the time it will take to implement the solution.  Also, determine if additional resources will be required.  This could impact your budget.

Step Three – Implement the solution. (D.A.Ve)

  1. Develop steps to implement solution(s) – List out in detail what must be done to implement the solution to each problem.  Remember to include the estimated time to accomplish each step.
  2. Assignments and Time Line – Assign your staff and resources to the steps developed in (a) above and set a time frame for implementation.
  3. VerifyContinue to verify that the solution is working as planned.  At this point you may have to repeat steps 2 and 3.

Step Four – Review, Evaluate and Document. (R.E.D.)

  1. Review – Review that the solution or solutions are continuing to work.
  2. Evaluate – Evaluate your performance and your staff’s performance.  Do this in a positive way with the purpose of improving the time to identify and develop solutions.
  3. Document – Document all the steps that you and your staff took to solve the problem or problems.  That way, should the problem reoccur your time frame to solve it is reduced.

Leaders are trained and placed into positions of authority and responsibility in order to solve problems within their organization so that the organization may accomplish its goals.  The above steps to effective problem solving have been presented as one way to make this effort successful for all leaders.

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