Are you a leader or a follower? When faced with a difficult problem, how do you react? How you face problems is one of the critical factors that helps determine how successful you will be in life. Its also one of the key qualities of a leader! Leaders solve problems- followers go to leaders to get their problems solved.
The first thing to do when faced with a problem is assume there is an answer out there- it just needs to be found. Worrying about the problem gets you nowhere; working towards the answer will get you everywhere. Know that YOU control your attitude and thoughts about any given situation. Leaders control their attitude and focus on results.
The next thing is to collect all the facts about the problem- most problems are not as big as they seem at first, once everything is known. Also, facts will help you find a better solution, faster. Knowing this is the next step can remove the emotion out of the situation- if someone comes to you with problem, simply begin asking questions and gather the facts. Sometimes you have dig to get to the real problem! How do you dig? Keep asking questions. Leaders are good at asking the right questions- and listening.
Then decide- is this really a problem that needs solving? Had bad is the problem? What is the worst that could happen if it is ignored? This helps put things in perspective, and oftentimes everyone will realize the problem is not as worrisome as they think. Leaders keep things in perspective to what they really are.
If the problem does need solving, consider what actions you might personally do that could resolve the problem. Brainstorm all ideas and write them down. If the problem came from someone else, consider what THEY can do to solve it. It's usually better to teach someone how to solve their own problem than do it for them. Leaders show you how to do it, not do it for you.
Consider what research you might do to solve the problem- searching the internet, asking other people, reading books. Don't make the mistake of thinking you are all-knowing and that your first instinct for an answer is necessarily the best. Bounce your ideas off other people, even if you think they know less on the subject. Sometimes the more you know, the more you can overlook the obvious. Leaders know how to get the information that is out there.
Next, be decisive, pick a solution, and implement it. Sometimes, a quick fix solution is needed followed by a long-term fix. Either way, once you decide a problem needs a solution, follow through with it. By the same token, know when a solution is outside of your control, and is time to just let it drop and move forward. Leaders follow through with things they take on.
Break the solution into small steps, and then focus on the most immediate steps. Leaders know how to break problems down into their component tasks and then track the progress of each one over time.
Finally, test and monitor any solutions you implement- don't just assume you're done. Despite your best intentions, any solution may fail- it may even make things worse! Be sure it's possible to undo whatever solution you implemented, and without being ashamed. A leader is not ashamed to make mistakes- without mistakes; no progress would ever be made!
And last but not least, solve your problems with integrity and honesty; otherwise you will never earn the respect of others you need assistance from.
While this article focused only on solving problems, being a good leader in general is a much larger topic, and something well worth your study. The goal of a leader is often simple, as Henry Kissinger stated: "The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.". Or I also like what Jim Rohn said: "A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better."