7 ways to solve problems as a leader

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name ‘Steve Jobs?’

It’s probably Apple, right? And for a good reason…

Steve Jobs changed the game for the industry. He led the Apple company in developing groundbreaking products, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. But if we take a closer look, Steve Jobs did so much more than just develop products. 

He ignited the personal computer revolution, revolutionised the sale of music, and shepherded the age of computer animation.

The story goes deep…

In 1985, Jobs was forced out of Apple after a long power struggle. But, by 1997,  Apple’s board of directors soon became disenchanted with the CEO’s  inability to turn the company’s finances around.

In 1997, they requested Apple’s prodigal cofounder Steve Jobs to lead the company once again. Jobs quickly forged an alliance with the Microsoft Corporation and simplified the company’s product line. He also engineered an award-winning advertising campaign that urged potential customers to “think different” and buy Macintoshes.

Within no time, Apple had rebuilt its brand, and by 2018, it made history by becoming the first publicly traded U.S. company to be valued at $1 trillion.

You see, what made Steve Jobs so great was that he had mastered the art of problem-solving. The entire business was built around making people’s lives better. And in an interview when the first Apple store was opened in 2001, Steve Jobs said its function wasn’t to “sell computers” but to “enrich lives”, according to Forbes.

Steve Jobs’ problem-solving strategy

Steve’s strategy was simple. Zoom out,focus in, and disconnect.

To zoom out means to look at the bigger picture. This helps you to identify exactly what you want to achieve and then find ways to do so. Go outside the realm of what is currently possible, and instead think of terms of what could be possible.

As Steve Jobs once said, you can’t connect the dots looking forward – only when looking backwards.

Focussing in means to see the problem within the context of your organisation. Set your sights on what you want to achieve and work on it relentlessly – something Jobs was an expert at.

And lastly, disconnect. Whenever you find that you’re unable to find a solution, you need to take a breather. Go for a walk and get some sun. This will help you to think critically and develop solutions.

Here are 7 ways to solve problems as a leader:

1. Open, transparent communication

To solve a problem, you have to first understand it. And the only way to do that is through open, transparent communication. You have to get to the bottom of the problem and fix it all the way up.

It’s important to listen to everyone’s concerns and points of view. Otherwise, you might solve half a problem and find out at the end that there are missing parts to it.

Then, after all the voices have been heard and all points of view accounted for, the leader, together with her team, can map-out a path toward a viable and sustainable solution.

2. Be an open-minded leader

There is more than one way to skin a cat.

One thing that I was told years back that stays with me until today is that everything is justifiable. In order to solve a problem, you have to open your mind to the various ways it can be done.

When brainstorming on ways to solve the issue, be sure to listen to everyone’s ideas without brushing any of them off. You can always pick up something from everyone and come up with a complex solution.

An article on Forbes says that open-minded people see beyond the obvious details before them and view risk as their best friend. They tackle problems head-on and get on with the business of driving growth and innovation. 

3. Remain calm as the leader

Problems will almost always arise within the workplace. The issue is how to handle them.

The best way to solve a problem is by first remaining calm. Because if you try to tackle it in panic mode, you may end up messing up even further.

Staying calm gives you the clarity to think and come up with easy, practical solutions. You’ll be able to think more logically and make decisions accordingly.

It helps you to pause and think instead of reacting automatically and unthinkingly.

4. Develop a solid foundational strategy

To solve any problem, you’ll need a solid strategy. This will guide you through the solution, rather than doing things haphazardly. Have the strategy mapped out on paper and make it known to everyone in your team.

It’s also easier to keep everyone accountable this way, since it will be stated exactly who is responsible for performing each role.

Effective leaders know how to gather the right people, resources, budget and knowledge from past experiences.

They anticipate the unexpected and utilise the strengths of their people to assure the strategy leads to a sustainable solution.

With a proper laid out plan, it’s a lot easier to avoid guesswork and eventually solve the issue at hand.

5. Don’t play the blame game

Pointing fingers is an easy way out. And if you focus on the problem, the problem continues to get bigger.

A good leader avoids pointing fingers as much as they can. Blaming others doesn’t solve a problem, it just makes the people resentful and defensive.

Even if it’s crystal clear who is to blame for the problem, there’s a way to teach them to do better next time without constantly making it known that they’re at fault.

Take accountability for your actions, and encourage this among your team. But before the problem is solved, do not blame people left right and centre for their mistakes.

6. Focus on the bigger picture

The truth of the matter is that small business owners don’t have the time, energy and resources to solve EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM.

So what do you do about it? You let some things slide. Stop obsessing over small things, which, in the grand scheme of things won’t matter.

Even so, it’s important to remain conscious of the fact that small things can come up to cause a huge effect on your business, and so not everything should be ignored. 

Don’t be quick to brush off the problems that come about, but instead, take a moment to think about how the situation is going to affect you and your business in the long-term.

As a general rule of thumb, use the 80/20 rule when solving problems. In this case, you would resolve the 20% of the issues leading to 80% of your problems.

7. Be a preemptive leader

“The wise warrior avoids the battle.” — Sun Tzu

To be preemptive will help you to ‘avoid the battle’ in the first place. 

How? You must have been in a situation where you can foresee a problem, but you choose to let it sit until it becomes a HUGE ISSUE.

You procrastinate on finding solutions to the small crack until the entire wall comes crushing down.

In short, do things that prevent bad things from happening and encourage good things to happen.

A true leader solves problems naturally preemptively and rarely makes the same mistake twice.


Solving problems is an art. It requires a leader to pause, take a step back, and think clearly. If done correctly, a problem can turn out to be a bonding experience within an organisation. It can lead to bigger opportunities and blessings.

The thing is, there will always be problems within the workplace. It’s how you deal with them that counts.

In conclusion, here are the 7 best ways to solve problems as a leader:

  1. Have open, transparent communication
  2. Be open-mined
  3. Remain calm
  4. Develop a solid foundational strategy
  5. Don’t play the blame game
  6. Focus on the bigger picture
  7. Be preemptive

If you could do with some support in growing your business, get in touch – at Outside ideas we’re on a mission to help people and businesses grow.

Onwards and Upwards my friend.



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