Why Having Problems Will Make You a Better Leader


What truly fosters professional growth

It is fascinating to see how higher ed. executives with similar backgrounds, positions, and educational levels have dramatically different levels of readiness when it comes to taking leadership roles. And when they go to a job interview, it shows!

When I work with clients on interview preparation for similar positions, some give the most insightful and powerful answers while others don’t stand out. Technical questions that demonstrate competency are easy for everyone, but when asked to provide examples of how they handled sensitive situations, some managers give unimpressive answers that make them look inexperienced.

Why is that? They are all smart, educated, competent, and experienced. They all moved up the organizational chart to executive positions. What makes some individuals far better prepared for top leadership positions than others? The difference is how comfortable they were throughout their careers.

Administrators who had the pleasure to work in supportive environments, without any major crises or conflict know how to do their jobs when everything is going well but haven’t learned how to resolve difficult situations. The problem is that they haven’t had enough problems!

Do you think you have problems?

Good! Having problems is good for you! Think about it about for a moment. What made you the leader you are today? Was it easy projects, conversations with people who always agree with you, and comfortable days in the office? Of course not!

The only way to grow as a leader is to expand your areas of competency by doing new things. Stepping out of your comfort zone is by definition uncomfortable but it’s essential for those of you who have ambition and thirst for learning.

If you are like most people, you want the challenges and the problems that you choose, but you don’t want the rest. In fact, if you had a magic wand to make some problems go away, you would use it daily. But that would be a mistake.

Why problems are good for you

Solving problems, especially the ones you didn’t want to have, makes you more:

  • Resourceful

  • Creative

  • Courageous

  • Confident

  • Resilient

  • Valuable to others

  • Empathetic

  • Aware and insightful

When you have problems, you must think differently, have new ideas, consider possibilities you haven’t thought of before, and find resources you haven’t used until now. You become a stronger strategist and make possible what previously seemed impossible or unlikely.

Problems are the perfect opportunity to build more courage. You don’t have the luxury to stay small and comfortable in a predictable environment. It’s time to take some risks and try new things without any guarantee of success. You have no choice but to face your fears, and that’s how you will overcome them.

Challenges have so much to teach you! It can be very humbling to struggle (temporarily), to question old assumptions, and to have uneasy feelings and emotions. Some of your old insecurities may be triggered, but that will create the perfect circumstances to heal them once and for all.

You will develop more empathy and more understanding for other people. You will be less quick to judge when someone else seems to have difficulty at work. You might realize that collaboration is more powerful than competition. You may improve professional relationships because you become more authentic and relatable.

You will gain perspective and stop sweating the small stuff. You will find more meaning in your work. You will become a greater asset to your current campus. And of course, what you will learn and accomplish will give you impressive and unforgettable examples to use at future job interviews.

What to do now

Stop hiding from problems! Look at your current situation and face problems that need to be solved. Is it uncomfortable? Good! Is it delicate and intimidating? Great! Will you need to ask for help and build a team? Even better! Will you have to make unpopular decisions? Excellent!

Keep reminding yourself that if each academic year is nearly identical to the last one and you don’t experience significant growth, you are missing out and your institution is missing out too!

Imagine how it would feel to learn new ideas and new skills, dare more, accomplish more, contribute more, make your campus a better environment for the people you serve, talk to new people, and innovate! How would you feel about yourself? What pains would be eliminated? What would become possible?

Be excited about the possibilities and stop thinking that having problems is bad. It is not. It’s like going back to graduate school. It’s good for you!

But you don’t have to do it alone. Team up with an Executive Coach to spare yourself mistakes and heartaches! Solve problems with confidence and trust in your success. I invite you to click here to schedule a complimentary call with me to discuss how I can help you become an even better leader in higher education.

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, and online courses. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.

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