10 Leadership Villains That Will Multiply Your Problems


Ever met one of these villains?

They use their super powers to block progress and enable problems.

Perhaps you even have a few lurking in your organization.

  • The Avoider
    Pretends the problem isn’t happening in the hope that it will  go away.
  • The Executioner
    Uses problems as an opportunity to assert power by blaming others or shooting the messenger.
  • The Savior
    Only interested in problems that allow them to ride in on a white horse and save the day.
  • The Controller
    Adds layers of red tape and micromanagement that discourage any efforts to implement change.
  • The Professor
    Insists they have all the answers and determines the prescription without a proper diagnosis.
  • The Deflector
    Tosses the problem to another department, team or manager or explains it away.
  • The Defender
    Takes any mention of a problem as a personal attack and turns the conversation into a confrontation.
  • The Extender
    Keeps problems alive to provide air cover for a bigger problem.
  • The Minimizer
    Dismisses the problem by rejecting the source of the information or blaming circumstances.
  • The Compromiser
    Allows a problem to persist because the end justifies the means.

Can you think of any I missed?

Enough of these types running amok and before long the organization is choking on problems that have gone unaddressed.

The best way to stop these behaviors is to deprive them of oxygen.

Create a culture where these behaviors are not rewarded and where they flat-out don’t work. Make sure values that support cooperation, customer-focus, innovation, and trust are woven into the fabric of the organization. And, if necessary, show your commitment to right behaviors by showing the villain out the door.

A healthy approach to problems is like a healthy immune system. Problems can’t be avoided but we can nurture the right leadership and organizational mindset to ensure they are dealt with as quickly as possible and before they become a more serious risk.

Consider a regular “check-up” to evaluate the health of your organizational immune system. 

Are problems addressed at the point where they occur and by the people who understand the process and work with the customer?

Do leaders have a cooperation or competition orientation towards problems?

Does employee feedback about problems get meaningful attention from leadership?

Is communication focused on finding a solution or finding someone to blame?

Does the organization have a generally agreed upon model for problem-solving?

What kind of training and tools are in place to support effective problem-solving? Who has access?

Do your stated values provide clear guidance about how problems (and the people who identify them) are treated?

Don’t let problems become your biggest problem. 

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” – Theodore Rubin

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