You might be thinking charisma, or speaking ability. Perhaps you think it’s about their communication style or their ability to delegate?
Wrong. The quality that you will find in virtually ALL leaders who are at the head of change and innovation around the world is a willingness to solve problems.
“Problem-solving leaders have one thing in common: a faith that there’s always a better way.”
– Gerald M. Weinberg
This is different from problem-solving ability. A lot of leaders have that too. What I’m referring to is a predisposition to want to solve problems over and above all other actions. To want to innovate and challenge the status quo. So much so that this type of leadership has been called ‘challenge-driven leadership’.
“Inside of every problem lies an opportunity.” – Robert Kiyosaki
So while some leaders are good human resources managers, some are not as gifted in that department. While some leaders are great communicators, some are less so. What one thing ALL good innovation leaders have in common is not just a willingness but, an overwhelming need to solve problems.
That focus on problems, rather than people, can lead to some tunnel vision when it comes to compassion, gratitude and understanding vis-à-vis employees and team members. It can also lead to a tendency to want to do everything themselves instead of delegating to others and trusting that they’ll get the job done.
But a seasoned leader will have a fair understanding of their personal strengths and weaknesses and will be able to compensate for it. How? By surrounding themselves with people who have the strengths they lack.
Who are the innovative leaders of today?
Look at the leaders you admire. The ones who are driving truly world-altering changes in business, technology, and politics. They don’t necessarily fit the template of what we would consider to be a ‘traditional leader’. Instead, they come from diverse backgrounds, cultures and knowledge bases.
A good example of challenge driven leadership? Elon Musk. He is breaking barriers and changing the way we think about everything from modern infrastructure to space travel. Talk to people who work closely with him and they’ll tell you that part of what’s amazing about his style of leadership is that his passion is catching. He is a workaholic and he does expect a lot from his teams but he also selects people who are likely to rise to the occasion.
Do problem-solving leaders attract followers?
By way of their passion for finding a unique solution to whatever problem they’re dealing with? Yes. That passion is contagious and their desire to make a difference is what propels them and others forward.
Again, referring to the extraordinary problem-oriented leadership of Elon Musk: “ The thing is no one, especially not Elon, is forcing you to work long hours. SpaceX just hires self-driven people who are extremely passionate about the mission. Long hours is just usually what it takes to get the job done, especially if you’re working with limited resources.” (Source)
Leaders whose dominant strength is solving problems know when to be front and center and when to step aside and let someone else take over. Their actions are always in service of innovation, rather than in window dressing.
Knowing that great innovation comes from seeing problems at different angles, think about what kind of leader you want to be, now and in the future. The leading edge of industry, technology and business won’t be found by sitting quietly and saying little.
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