Leadership thinker Brian Tracy makes the following comment about leaders and followers:
“Leaders think and talk about the solutions.
Followers think and talk about the problems.”
This quote reminds us that leadership effectiveness is not just about skill and capacity; it is also about a leader’s focus. Although leaders must face problems, effective leaders take these insights on the problems faced and then work to shift attention toward reflection on relevant solutions.
Dr. Jeffrey Matteson is a friend of mine who works as a district superintendent within the State of New York. Not only is Jeff a good friend, but he is also one of the most competent leaders I know.
Jeff shares the following about the importance of leaders focusing on solutions:
“In acknowledging the problem-based focus of followers, the leadership challenge is to turn their attention to potential solutions. Establishing an outlet for organizational members to provide feedback on problems is rarely necessary in contemporary organizational leadership. Problem and barrier identification come naturally. A solutions-based leader intentionally institutes a feedback loop for solutions from the front line and responds prescriptively so the appropriate medicine is applied to the identified ailment.”
If “problem and barrier identification come naturally,” then a core leadership responsibility is to take these insights and move the organization to the next step of making solution identification of equal importance for the collective thinking and discussions in the organizational community.
Solution-based leadership is about raising the focus, sights, and aspirations of the community toward a positive vision of the future. This happens most effectively as the collective energy of the community—leaders and followers alike—give their time and attention toward solution identification and implementation.
In light of this…
- Where is your focus as a leader? Are you spending your time thinking more about problems or solutions?
- Where is the focus of the followers with whom you work? How are you intentionally raising the sights of these individuals from a focus on problems to a focus on solutions?
In the days ahead, make steps to move the conversation to a solution-based approach to leadership.