Problem solving is what leaders do. The most well-known leaders have been the ones who realized there was a problem and solved the problem.

Nehemiah realized that Jerusalem needed a wall, so he built a wall through amazing project management. Nehemiah’s example of leadership through providing the solution for the broken down wall and how he worked through an awesome amount of barriers makes him a legendary problem solver.  

Another famous problem solver was Albert Einstein. A reported Einstein quote is, “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” This highlights the need for defining the problem in order to provide a solution. This is the place legendary problem solvers start: What is the problem?

In Genesis, the problem seemed to be sin. However, the root of the problem is what caused the sin: selfishness. Selfishness is at the root of most of the problems in this world. If we, as leaders, are to be effective problem solvers, then our energy would be best utilized by eliminating selfishness.

Galatians 5:19-20 contains a list of selfish behaviors that are all too familiar to me: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions.”

James 3:16 clarifies where the problem lies: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”

How can we eliminate the problem of selfishness as a leader? I don’t know if it is possible to accomplish this in those we lead, but I do know that my own personal selfishness is under my control as I submit to Christ. It is in our power to lay aside the old self, and in Ephesians 4:22 we are instructed to do so: “That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.”

How do we lay aside the old self? Here are three ways Scripture tells us we can:

Die to self: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,’” Luke 9:23.

Determine to do it: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” Philippians 2:4-8.

Love one another: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law,” Romans 13:8-10.

Inherent in loving someone is putting their needs before your own. This is the foundation of dying to yourself. When  you consider others (God and your neighbor) as more important than yourself, your fleshly desires no longer take preeminence. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend,” John 15:13.