How Do Leaders Handle Breakdowns?

By Ted Santos


In your personal or professional life, breakdowns occur. When I say breakdowns, it includes problems, disruptions, challenges, chaos, misfortune, disaster, etc. When it comes to business, in many cases, the larger the goal the larger the breakdown. If you’re a leader, the way you handle those problems can dictate the culture of your enterprise. And that can affect your company’s ability to succeed.

If you typically shy away from big problems, leadership may not be appealing to you. A big part of leadership’s job is to handle and correct major disruptions. Perhaps if there were no problems in the world there would be no need for leadership. Since businesses are constantly growing, it is likely people will have to accomplish something they have never done in the past. On that new path, there will be chances to encounter challenges that have not been faced by people in the organization.

At first, new challenges can appear insurmountable. Depending on the complexity of the disruption, it could be analogous to a two year old learning to tie their shoes for the first time. In some cases, staff and management will have to use existing resources and problem solving skills to overcome the challenge. However, when they come to an impasse, that is when leadership plays a significant role.

If leadership is easily flustered and annoyed with problems, there is a chance they will avoid large scales initiatives. While those initiatives can be filled with obstacles, they can lead to new revenue growth and an opportunity to lead your industry. Except, if the ability to deal with those obstacles is low, a company can be derailed. Constant derailment with new opportunities can be very expensive.

On the surface, it may sound as though I am saying leadership must be able to control themselves in the face of chaos. Without question, I am not saying that. Control is a myth. If you doubt that, control your mind to stop thinking anything for five minutes. Most will find that to be a difficult task. Therefore, whether the problem involves exceeding budget, conflict between colleagues or constant failure, it is how leadership sees themselves in the face of those breakdowns that matters most. That perception is the result of training, not controlling.

Too often, people don’t deal with what is occurring. They make up stories in their head about what happened. For example, if teams refuse to collaborate, leadership can start to blame themselves. With that mindset, they may become defensive because they see the problem as their fault. They will believe they hired the wrong people or they may believe they are a poor leader. That can create blind spots. Why? Because the leader is not focused on the source of the problem. They are attempting to figure out what is wrong with themselves or other people. That can lead to anger with others. And that anger becomes the mask to hide the fact they believe they, the leader, may be the problem.

On the other hand, if leadership understands that breakdowns occur and it is part of any initiative, they can start to ask the right questions when disruptions occur. It is likely they will ask questions that no one else is asking. That gets people focused on the source of the problem.

With that said, it is not breakdowns or chaos that is a problem. It is how you see yourself that dictates the way you respond to whatever is occurring. If you make up a story based on negative presuppositions, it is likely that frustration will ensue. In other words, it is not the problem that is a problem. It is how you handle yourself in your own head that creates problems or solutions. When you understand that, you begin to see that problems are often not the problems they first appeared to be.



What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback. And I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, connect through my blog