4 Problems with the Squeaky Wheel Approach to Leadership

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is an expression used to describe the reality that the most noticeable problem often gets the most focus. It can also be used to describe the loudest person receiving the most attention. It is a common expression because it is often how people live and lead. Leaders, problem solvers by nature, often wake up each day ready and able to solve problems. But focusing on the squeaky wheel is not the most effective way to lead. Here are four reasons why:

1. The squeaky wheel may not be the best steward.

When the squeaky wheel is a person on the leader’s team, it is possible that the squeaky wheel is not a good steward of people and resources. For example, if the kids or student minister is always asking for help to recruit leaders, even after it has been given before, it is quite possible that no amount of attention will solve the problem.

2. The squeaky wheel can rob resources from others.

People on the leader’s team who are not “the squeaky wheel” are often the best stewards. Giving them more resources and people could go further than giving those resources to the squeaky wheel.

3. The squeaky wheel may not be the biggest opportunity.

Squeaky wheels are not always people, of course. They are often problems that emerge. But wise leaders focus the majority of their attention on the greatest opportunities, not the greatest problems. These can be one in the same, but sometimes focusing on problems means forsaking opportunities.

4. The squeaky wheel may not be the biggest problem.

Ironically, the squeaky wheel may not actually be the biggest problem anyway. It simply is the one that is most noticed. Chaotic leaders run from squeaky wheel to squeaky wheel and accomplish very little.