Earlier this week, I read Dan Rockwell’s blog aka @Leadershipfreak, about making meetings vibrant. His premise was that meetings where opportunities were created, left participants feeling energized. In contrast, meetings where the sole purpose seemed to be about solving problems, left everyone feeling exhausted. For leaders, who always seem to have a abundance of meetings in their schedule, this should be a simple concept that needs their full attention.
In another distinction between leadership and management, one could say that leaders create opprotunities while managers solve problems. But in truth, you cannot be an exceptional leader without the ability to also solve problems. There are critical issues, often that must solved in an expedient manner, that both leader and manager must address. Organizations, even the best of the best, are not without problems to solve. But maybe the distinction arises from the different approaches taken by the leader when a problem arises or is on the horizon.
I would suggest that when most leaders are faced with a non-emergent problem they are inclined to not solve it! Solving it may be the easiest action, but it does not provide any recipe for mentorship for developing leaders. In essence, solving the problem takes the monkey off someone else’s back and places it on the leader! Developing leaders must be provided the opportunity to, with guidance and wisdom from the leader, experience the pressure of the monkey and look for and further implement plausible solutions. But that is still problem solving- a necessary skill, but not one that clearly defines true leadership.
Leaders look at any issue or obstacle not as problems to solve but as opportunities to create. They fully understand that there is not just one right answer or one correct path. Leaders covet the divergent thinking that accompanies creating opportunities. They do not focus on what the solution is but rather what are the possibilities. Rather than one simple answer, they want more questions, less linearity and more messiness! Leaders believe that in that web of ideas comes not only the solution to the issue but the creation of a better product, a better system.
Leaders who create opportunities instead of simply solving problems need to be confident in the messiness of the work. They fully believe that what will be created through the thrashing in the beginning will be better than the simple solution that is usually easily achieved. Leaders unlike managers possess the ability to as Seth Godin puts it, “quiet the lizard brain!” And finally, they need to be able to connect the dots in the quagmire of information in order to lead into the messiness and lead out again with clarity of purpose.
Next time you are facing a challenge, don’t simply try to solve it. Instead, look for the opportunities created within and you will define yourself more as a leader than a manager! Good luck!!!