THE Task of Leadership, Outgrowing Problems

“The greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble…. They can never be solved, but only outgrown…. This ‘outgrowing’, as I formerly called it, on further experience was seen to consist in a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest arose on the person’s horizon, and through this widening of view, the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms, but faded out when confronted with a new and stronger life-tendency.” (Carl Jung, 1931)

Over the past three years I have been working with several groups of professionals in several States to infuse some core Coaching skills and approaches to their work facilitating change and being leaders in their organizations. One of the areas we explore is Appreciative Inquiry. David Cooperrider and his colleagues in the Department of Organizational Behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, developed Appreciative Inquiry as a transformational change process for organizations and groups.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) does not focus on weaknesses and problems to fix. Instead clients are encouraged to acknowledge strengths and imagine possibilities in order to rise above and outgrow their problems.

AI does not hide from the negative but instead asks:

  • What is working?
  • What is missing?
  • What do you want more of?
  • What are you most proud of regarding your work?
  • What is your image of what topic at hand ought to be that is creating the gap between present and what is wanted?
  • What do you know to be true when your work is at its finest and most effective level?

I love the idea of transcending and out growing problems, by working through strengths. To strategically consider what strengths are already in place within both the organization, (business or whole system), and how to best leverage them to make things even better.

Here is some of what I have seen happen by infusing this deliberate attention on what is working:

  • Staff are better able to apply their existing skills and more quickly incorporate new information in a rapidly changing environment.
  • The quality of interactions with colleagues and employees, especially ones my clients supervise, are improved and result in more effective actions.
  • The degree of accountability and follow through by all stakeholders has increased.
  • More quickly able to target areas of concerns and think through them in order to solve them before they become problems.

To be part of helping others develop their ability to effectively lead others by helping to improve the quality of everyone’s thinking is absolutely inspiring. Because I can see Peter Drucker’s statement “…the task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant” come to life.

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Deirdre Danahar works with busy, creative, professionals who are looking to shift from what feels chaotic, disjointed or frustrating to a calm productive, spirited life.  People she works with come away knowing how to do their best work without sacrificing their quality of life. She is the owner of InMotion Consulting & Coaching, LLC, based in Jackson, MS. Reach her at or 601-362-8288.


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