The Best Leaders See Themselves As Part Of Their Problems

If there is one thing to focus on that will make the biggest difference to every leadership result in 2015 and beyond, this is it.

Reflecting on how you lead your life, your relationships and your career – ask yourself this question:-

“Do things happen to me or through me?

Let me explain more about what I mean by that. When we think that things are happening “to” us we tend to feel powerless to be able to affect the results we get in life and if we feel we can’t change our outcomes or results then we can be tempted to feel like a victim.

There is another way of getting more of the results we want and to feel empowered and resourceful in the process, which is to believe that things happen “through us”.

When we put on our “systems thinking” hats on and look at a result we are getting in terms of a whole system, and we see ourselves in that system and not separate to it, this starts to open us up to the idea that we can do something about this.

Just this week I coached some who was distressed about his relationships with a couple of colleagues. I invited “John” to think about one of his problematic relationships as a system and to identify all the things within the system that contributed to the breakdown. We quickly got to the core of the issue in the relationship – the very thing that was missing and which John needed for the relationship to work. I then drew a circle and asked him to segment the circle into 2 parts to indicate which part was his contribution to the issue in the relationship. He pointed out various things that he did, or omitted to do, that contributed 40% to the core issue. It was like watching the cogs of his brain turn as he started to identify himself as the source of part of the issue in the relationship, a shift from his previous thoughts of it being 100% of the other persons’ responsibility.

Even if John had told me his contribution to the issue was only 1%, my response would have been the same, which was “If you gave 100% of your attention and effort to improving the part you are responsible for, what would you immediately start or stop doing in this relationship?”

Let me be clear. It is not about fixing everything in the relationship and we are not talking here about excusing other people’s poor behavior or performance; this is about us stepping up and taking responsibility in relationships for the part that is ours. This alone creates a mindset shift away from “this is happening to me and I feel powerless and frustrated” to “if I believe myself to be part of this issue and it is happening through me, then what can I do differently to change this?”

That redirection of energy, focus and action to a stance of self-responsibility will create a propulsion system of change within us. We may notice how the whole relationship system changes when we make that change within us.

This is self-leadership at it’s best, taking responsibility to work on what we have the ability and authority to change.


Equilibrio’s executive services are engaged and retained by senior leaders and executives in Australian organisations, multi-nationals, government, and not-for-profit organisations.