Insights

Good Leadership isn’t about just fixing problems

How many times have you heard come from the mouth of a business leader or consultant:
“I like to solve problems!”?

These professionals who utter these words wear their ability to solve problems as a proud badge – and feel that it somehow makes them unique.

Let’s discuss this for a moment. I’d suggest that most – if not all – of us like to solve problems.  It feels great to accomplish something and get to check the box. However, that trait by itself does not a good business leader or consultant make. 

You may have found yourself in the types of organizations where key leadership is out and about fixing problems all the time. On the surface, this might seem fine. But there is a problem with this:  it turns companies into reactive machines, never really moving in any direction – but WOW! Are they good at solving problems!

So instead of just constantly fixing problems, I’d like to put forth that there are three things every good leader or consultant should spend his or her time doing in order to actually drive the best results:

1. Assess the situation first. Understand the big picture.

Too often we see a problem, jump in, and fix the problem. What we don’t do it take the time to understand the bigger issue … we just treat the symptoms instead of the real root issue. It’s like a doctor treating a broken arm with aspirin.

Human nature is to jump to a conclusion and not investigate those problems deeper.  In the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, the author explains that we want to rely on personal experiences in all of our decision making.  It’s important to prevent this type of thinking and put in place a methodology to examine the entire scope of the issue. Assessment must come first to understand the complete picture.

2. Recognize that while good business leaders plan, great ones predict.

Yes, the ability to develop a plan and strategy is critical, and good business people have the talent to plan well and build a solid strategy that allows for ongoing, smart execution. But great business people go a step further and predict where there may be potential problems and are prepared to handle those problems even before they happen.

Transparency and excellent communication skills are paramount at the time of delivery to the rest of the team. There must be clarity on multiple levels: on the issue that the team is looking to solve, on how the plan is going to work, on each player’s part in the plan, and, importantly, on the outcome. The best-created plans often get derailed due to a lack of communication or buy-in.

 3. Execute the plan, but pivot as necessary.

It’s easy to develop a plan, put it into a pretty presentation, drop it off where it needs to go, and then expect someone else to figure it out.  Good leaders and consultants recognize the importance of following and executing a sound plan … but also knowing when to pivot.

Even the best of leaders can’t always see the entire landscape when building strategy.  Knowing when and how to pivot will be the difference between a stalled plan and one that runs through completion. (It’s fair to say in 2020 we’ve all had plenty of opportunities to showcase our ability to pivot and adapt to curveballs that come at us.)

What else do you find is important in leadership or consultants other than fixing problems? I’ve only hit on three big ones, but there are certainly more out there.

We’d like to hear your thoughts!  If you want to chat about this in more depth, feel free to reach out to Bill Morrow, Managing Partner, at bmorrow@thinkempirical.com or 610-310-6707. And be sure to connect with Bill on LinkedIn.