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The Quickest Way to Gain Leadership? Problem Solving

January 20, 2020

Activate 180

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Audio Transcript

Hey activators. Today let’s talk problem solving: how the measures you take when facing uncertainty define you. Let’s light a spark.

These tips are from John Maxwell, author of Developing the Leader Within You 2.0.

In a well-led organization, problems are solved at the lowest level possible. That means that the problems that do rise up to leaders are often the most difficult. Like any other leader, as soon as John Maxwell stepped into a leadership role, he was confronted with problems. And facing those problems caused him to meet himself as a young, developing leader. Here are some of the biggest lessons he learned.

Our Decisions Are Often Impacted by Our Proximity to the Problem. As a leader, the more disconnected you are from your people, the more disconnected you may become from the problems. If that happens, you may lose the human touch in your leadership.

Our Plates as Leaders Will Always Be Filled with Problems. Problems are what you deal with every day. Expecting anything other than that is being unrealistic. So if you’re a leader, don’t be surprised when problems arise and it’s your responsibility to solve them.

Pragmatism Serves Us Well as Leaders. Maxwell’s experimentation with problem solving trained him to be very pragmatic, and his approach enabled him to lead with a patience-persistence mind-set. He writes in Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 that because he didn’t always know the best answers, he had to be patient to figure them out. The benefit of that patience was that he was beginning to develop wisdom. When he was successful it fueled his persistence, and he kept getting better at problem solving and decision making

Believing There Is Always an Answer Is an Asset. Maxwell calls mental agility the most important problem-solving skill that he has learned and practiced over the years is mental agility. To tap into mental agility, you need to believe you can solve problems.

When leaders of good character face problems, they rise to the occasion and are often defined by their response. Problems don’t have to break us. They can instead make us. When we are tempted to avoid problems and responsibilities because they seem too weighty, just remember the youth who asked his mentor, “What’s life’s heaviest burden?” The response: “Having nothing to carry.” What you face helps you to face yourself, and what you are able to carry defines you.

Thanks for joining us today on Activate 180. Tell us about a problem you handled with impressive poise and a dose of that mental agility Maxwell referenced. Make sure to visit our website at to share your story and subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher, via RSS, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Did you like today’s inspiration? Rate our show on iTunes, or tell your coworkers and colleagues about it. Anything would help us out! Learn how to develop the vision, value, influence, and motivation required of successful leaders in Maxwell’s revamped classic, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0. Get in the Leadership Essentials store.


Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 by John Maxwell

Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 Workbook

The Leader's Greatest Return Online Book Club

The Leadership Essentials Online Store



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