Leadership Dilemma

by  Will Lukang  |  Change Management
Leadership Dilemma

Leading an organization is not a simple exercise. It requires a leader to be connected with his people, and to understand the business landscape and its shifting priorities based on the market movements.

It is a complex matrix of challenges to juggle on a daily basis. It ranges from being strategic as well as being ready to handle tactical stuff on a daily basis.

With the constant challenges to meet certain targets, it creates a leadership dilemma. What do I mean by that?  A leader who knows what to do to get the team from point A to B can either do one of two things:

  1. The leader can tell the team what to do,  how to do it, and when to do it
  2. The leader can guide the team.

Each path varies depending on the competency of its people, the time horizon available to get it done and the paramount goal of the leader. By paramount goal I mean does the leader want to cultivate the talent or just use existing talent? That means grow or maintain. All these choices have varying degrees of outcome that can significantly affect the future of the organization.

Assuming that the time horizon line is adequate and the talents are significantly better, a leader can easily accomplish the goal by providing the roadmap of detailed step-by-step instructions of what needs to be done. This is followed by a strict mandate of achieving the dates slated to be completed.

With a smart group of constituents, it will ultimately get done and another successful campaign can be had by the leader. However, is this really the best path to grow talent in the organization? I argue that this is the least beneficial path if you’re a leader, because you’re not challenging your people and not harnessing their abilities to come up with better solutions.

The optimum approach is for the leader to engage the team and present the problem statement and let the team come up with an approach to get it done. It is important to time-box it to ensure that it will be done to address the business needs, because timelines are really important. A right decision in the wrong time will also yield a negative outcome. It is akin to producing a summer outfit for winter when there is clearly no demand for it during the wintertime.

While engaging the team is the best and ideal approach, the leader is still faced with the dilemma of which approach to use, depending on the time horizon of the problem. At times a great leader has a gut feeling to use the optimum approach because they trust their people.

As I write this paragraph, the quote comes to mind of John Maxwell.

He says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

A leader shows the way and guides his people to get it done. At the end of the day, the leader shoulders the dilemma. The approach they use will greatly affect the overall strength of the organization.

It is my belief that leaders always surround themselves with smart people who can help the organization grow and increase its capacity. If a leader finds herself to be the smartest person in the room, she either should hire new people or move on to another organization.

What would you do if you were in the same situation? Would you engage your team? Or would you be so focused on the goal that you would tell them what to do because it is the easiest thing to do?

Tell me about your experience with a leadership dilemma and how it was resolved?
Photo Credit: © lava4images / Fotolia

About The Author

Articles By will-lukang
A dynamic, multi-faceted Information Technology Leader who demonstrates expertise in translating business needs into technology solutions that meet business objectives while developing strategies to optimize processes that improve efficiency and reduce costs. A certified coach, speaker and training from John Maxwell Team. A co-author of The Character-Based Leader.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Page Cole  |  13 May 2015  |  Reply

Super insight here-
“Each path varies depending on the competency of its people, the time horizon available to get it done and the paramount goal of the leader. By paramount goal I mean does the leader want to cultivate the talent or just use existing talent?”

Great reminder that my job as a leader is not just to get the job done…
It’s not just to effectively manage the team members and their talents…
But it’s vital that I’m looking for every opportunity to grow the people on my team, to help them discover new talents, develop current ones and to continue to enhance the relationships of the team!

Thanks for the insight!!!

John E. Smith  |  14 May 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Will – interesting post:)

You have nicely described the delicate balancing act of leaders as they seek to be supportive and engaged, yet helping the person grow. Much like very small children learning to walk. If we continually hold them up, they do not learn to walk by themselves, but we worry about them injuring themselves as they learn.

I have faced this many times in my own career, but no particular instance stands out. I believe that finding the “sweet spot” between coddling or controlling and nurturing for true growth is something that we just develop over time with practice and experience.

Of course, you have to be aware that you cannot simply control or cut loose … that’s why articles like this are valuable, especially for young leaders.


Shannon Wright  |  14 May 2015  |  Reply

Hey Will ,
Great post , clearly identifies the choice of leadership style lying on both extremes on the continuum , However I believe in reality a creative mixture of both styles , somewhere in the middle is what defines a great leader .
Flexibility is what is called for in our dynamic environment , and the most effective leadership style must be contingent on the elements at hand .
I agree with john that finding that “Sweet Spot” in leadership is what fires up a campaign .


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