What Puzzles Teach About Leadership

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I love puzzles, even though I rarely have time to indulge my passion. Whether in the form of a colorful landscape or complex jumble of similarly shaped objects, puzzles require paying attention to detail, finding common elements, and designing a strategy for solving the pictorial riddle. Puzzles also offer interesting perspectives about leadership.

Like a puzzle, leaders are complex. Some seem mostly interested in presenting one aspect of their personality, not unlike the nuanced colors that make some puzzles more challenging to solve. Other leaders are adept at modifying their behaviors to relate best to the persons they are with, just like the disparate colors that make it easier to distinguish certain puzzle pieces.

The best leaders understand they are only one piece in their multifaceted workplace. Regardless of position or skills, leaders lose credibility when they disregard the contributions of others. I have sometimes been disappointed to discover a puzzle piece is missing. Like workplaces, the picture remains incomplete when any element is absent, regardless of size or stature.

Leaders are often perceived by others in a less than favorable light. Sometimes this isn’t news to them, at other times they seem oblivious to this reality. Before assembling a puzzle, I always add extra light because without it the muted features of the image aren’t as obvious. Leaders must welcome the perspectives of others, regardless of how uncomfortable it may feel to have blind spots revealed.

I wonder how many leaders view their workplace as a complex puzzle? Many public personalities seem interested only in preserving their image or maintaining power and control.

If only they realized the collective beauty of an engaged workforce or energized community; a place where each person’s opinions and talents matter. Like a completed puzzle, the culmination of any project or the success of any enterprise rests in the contribution of each piece, regardless of size, shape, or color.

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Ken Byler
Ken Byler is Principal and Founder of Higher Ground Consulting Group, LLC, a Souderton, Pennsylvania firm that has provided leadership training, coaching, and facilitation services since 2002. He is an Authorized Partner for Everything DiSC®, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™, and PXT Select™ all registered trademarks of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.