The Leadership Abyss

The leadership abyss is what I like to call the absence of impactful leadership in the organizations I’ve worked with. defines abyss as a deep, immeasurable space, gulf, or cavity; vast chasm. 

When I started using the word abyss, I was referring to what I saw as a problematic absence of quality leaders. Now the word abyss represents more for me. It also represents hope because where there is absence, there is an opportunity to fill the absence with something. What we fill it with is the question. 

Now, I picture an abyss like this…


It’s plush. It’s green. There is life.  Yet as we stare off into the distance, we don’t know where the light will take us.  There are so many possibilities if we go towards the light.

Often we focus on what is missing rather than the opportunities nothingness presents. Shifting our thinking is challenging but can be done with practice.  In business, you hear buzz phrases such as “solution-oriented.”  Yet, when we are faced with a problem we often focus on, how many ways in which, whatever idea presented, can’t be done.

How can an organization shift this way of approaching problem solving?

I suggest following the creative problem solving process or CPS. Read more about CPS by clicking on Creative Education Foundation.  At the heart of the process is the belief that all ideas should be accepted without judgment and that there is power in generating many ideas before collapsing into that one best idea. CPS guidance is to defer judgement, diverge (collect many ideas) to converge (narrow down to fewer options) placing a focus on “Yes, and…” rather than “No, but…”

Engaging in the CPS process is anti the way we think of problem solving in organizations. We think of risk mitigation rather than embracing “mistakes” and learning from them.  I put mistakes in quotes because even considering something a mistake reflects a limited view. For every idea that you implement that doesn’t solve the problem you initially thought you had, you uncover that the mistake solves a different issue or offers a different and valuable perspective.

Open your mind to CPS and you will experience exponential returns both in terms of solving your company’s central issue and in terms of the problem solving experience.

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