I remember reading about Frank Blake when he was Home Depot’s CEO. He routinely visited Home Depot stores around the country. I liked how he dealt with and addressed the problems he would encounter during his visits. His style and methods were a reminder of something that I still believe is a key to good leadership.
Frank Blake is obviously a “systems thinker” and he led like a systems thinker.
It’s one thing to say you’re a systems thinker; it’s another thing to actually lead like one. During his visits, Frank would never make “store-related” comments. He chose, rather, to focus on the big picture (systems issues).
This is a very wise strategy for pastors and other church leaders to remember. It is common to react emotionally to a problem instead of asking, “How is our system broken, and what needs to be fixed?” In my experience, nearly 100% of the time the problem is a systems issue, not a people issue. Either way, reacting emotionally almost never helps.
Over the years I’ve been given feedback on how I react to problems. I don’t seem to get “upset enough” or take action quickly enough. I’m too calm about the issue, waiting for the data to actually get in before I make any judgments. I don’t call the “person to blame” in my office and “have a word with them” or otherwise take my frustration out or even fire the one to blame.
I’ve often said, when something in your organization isn’t going the way you think it should or something is going wrong, as the leader of the organization you don’t have to look far for who to blame. All you have to do is walk to the nearest mirror to find the person to blame. Why? Because you are the problem. What do I mean? The bottom line is ninety-nine times out of a hundred when something is going wrong, the senior leader is usually the one to blame. There’s usually something you as the senior leader should be doing that you are not or something that you are doing that you shouldn’t. You have to ask yourself the tough question, “Am I willing to change myself in order to improve the organization’s overall performance?”
As the senior leader, the fact is I like my job too much to fire the one to blame … the guy in the mirror.