Your biggest leadership obstacles may not be what you think they are

How many times have you thought, “If I only had the perfect tool, I could manage my time better!” Or, “If I just had the skills to stop procrastinating, I’d get more work done!”.

In today’s age, we tend to believe that the more we throw at something the better it will get. If we’re struggling with overwhelm, we simply need more tools to make everything easier. When we can’t achieve goals, we think we lack the necessary skills to overcome whatever is hindering us.

But what if this obsession with more tools and more skills isn’t the answer? In fact, what if we had every tool and skill available and still couldn’t realise our full potential?

A shift in mindset

I love this picture because it provides a great metaphor for the combination of elements that we need to tackle challenges in life and work.

To carry the burden of the rocks, this woman must have the perfect alignment of:

  • Tools – her hands and arms
  • Skills – her strength and ability to balance
  • Mindset – her reason for holding the rocks and belief that she can do it

If any one of these were unbalanced, it wouldn’t be long before she became unbalanced as well.

In a work environment, tools help us build and apply our skills in practical ways. They simplify tasks, and create frameworks around activities so they are easier to manage.

Our skills enable us to perform actions to achieve desired results. We learn technical skills through education and hands-on learning, and soft skills through self-reflection and personal growth. Skills influence our behaviours and capabilities in the workplace, and are constantly evolving throughout our career.

What’s perhaps given less attention when it deserves more, is our mindset. The mindset we bring to work and the challenges that arise every day is a vital component to our success.

Unfortunately, some people find it very difficult to self-reflect and recognise their mindset. It takes a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) which is not a skill that comes easily to everyone.

When this is the case, we can look to tools (such as psychometric testing) to help us build EQ skills which then enables deeper reflection. Once we achieve this capability for self-reflection, we can begin to look at the full spectrum of what’s preventing us from realising our aspirations. 

3 steps to uncover the source of a challenge

If you’re facing a difficult challenge at work or in your career, don’t be so quick to pigeonhole it as a “toolset” problem or a “skillset” problem. Dig deeper, and try to untangle the challenge in its entirety to see if a mindset problem lies at the heart of it.

Here are 3 questions you could ask to help you do this:

  1. How many tools am I already using? Do I really need another tool if existing tools aren’t working?
  2. How long has this problem existed? If it has been going on for a while, it’s unlikely to be caused by a lack of tools or skills.   
  3. How complex is the problem and is it an isolated event? For example, if you’re concerned about time management, is it because you were late for a few meetings? Or are you compulsively late and always feel a sense of urgency as you go about your day? If it’s the latter, tools and skills are probably not the issue.  

You can use these questions to reflect on personal challenges, as well as team challenges and even large-scale organisational challenges. This is particularly pertinent in the current landscape where employees are suffering from burnout at concerning rates. The answer to improving productivity and morale isn’t going to come from adding a new tool or improving people’s skills – but examining the mindset around work and how we adapt as individuals and a collective to regain energy and motivation.

If you or your team would benefit from psychometric testing to build EQ skills and enable deeper self-reflection, I can assist.

I’ve recently become accredited as a psychometric tester using EQ-I 2.0. The test is based on over 20 years of research, and is the first scientifically developed and validated measure of emotional intelligence.

To learn more, please email me at 

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