Leadership for the Greater Good is not easy to achieve. Many of the issues leaders face are so complex that they have been called ‘wicked problems’ – not in the sense of being evil, but because they seem almost intractable. Patience, insight and collaboration are required to resolve wicked problems and, even then, many preferred solutions often lead to unintended consequences that demand new actions that, unfortunately, too often descend in a cycle of quick-fix solutions. Policy failure and crisis management often result, as seen in wicked problem areas such as climate change, resources tax policy, refugee responses, and Indigenous health.
This Working Paper utilises Grint’s 2008 model of critical, tame and wicked problems to differentiate between the needs and uses for command, management and leadership approaches to the exercise of authority in working with them. The paper suggests that the increasing complexity of the problems leaders in all sectors of society are facing, together with the increasing volatility and uncertainty of contemporary social, business and political affairs, demand special efforts to develop and enhance leadership for wicked problems. Five tools for working with wicked problems are suggested: collaboration, character, continuity of commitment, competence and communication.