As a consultant and coach, I have read countless books on leadership. If I have read so many books, I must think this is a worthy topic. Reflecting on proven leaders’ ideas and comparing them to your actions provides you with great insights into improving getting results with other people. If you type the word “Leadership” into an internet search engine, comments will appear like; styles, character, ownership, confidence, traits. The top results for defining leadership are all behavior-based.
However, when I think back on my development as a leader, it was not so neat and pretty as these books might suggest. The truth is that most of what I learned about leadership I learned because I needed to solve a problem. Sometimes I needed to solve it desperately and immediately. Big problems often created the motivation I needed to get out of my comfort zone and try something – anything – different to change the results I was getting. Some of those problems were rooted in my behavior. Some of them were obstacles that arose in my environment. But every time I solved a problem or tried to solve a problem, I learned something. I grew in my ability to lead.
My observation is that is how most leaders grow. They become great problem solvers. One of the keys to being a great problem solver is to be able to identify problems. Getting good at that means adopting a results mindset. Naming results you want and measures the gap between those results and your current situation makes issues clear. You force yourself to get specific about what you want to achieve and get out of the “feelings” zone. Feeling that something is wrong is an impossible problem to solve.
Identifying the actual root cause behind a problem can be more challenging than identifying problems. Often leaders can recognize the symptoms (like lots of complaining or poor profit results), but the cause is unclear. The ability to peel back the layers of symptoms to reveal the actual root cause is a true leadership skill. Finding root cause can be especially hard to do when you are part of the problem. Using root cause identification tools like a “Five Why” analysis helps you overcome your biases and dig past the surface issues to the real cause of the problem.
Once you have guessed the root cause, you are ready to take action. That action and the results that come from it create the next step in your leadership journey. It looks like this;
• Define Results
• Measure Gap
• Identify Problem
• Pinpoint Root Cause
• Define Fix
• Do It
It’s as simple – and as challenging – as that.
If you or someone on your management team wants to learn more about growing their leadership skills by becoming a more skilled problem-solver, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.