Solution-Based Leadership

time Equals Solutions Not Problems, by One Way Stock, Flickr

time Equals Solutions Not Problems, by One Way Stock, Flickr

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.

Assessing Leadership — The Purpose in Leadership Inventory

Researching, Steve Hanna, Flickr

Photo Credit: Researching, by Steve Hanna, Flickr

The inaugural edition of the journal Servant Leadership: Theory and Practice came out at the end of August. I’m grateful to have an article included in the August 2014 issue of the journal. My article is focused on the development and initial testing of what I’m calling The Purpose in Leadership Inventory.

In this brief post, I’m providing a link to the full article followed by a brief overview of what leadership variables are measured by the instrument.

The Development and Initial Testing of the Purpose in Leadership Inventory:
A Tool for Assessing Leader Goal-Orientation, Follower-Focus, and Purpose-in-Leadership

Why Was the PLI Created?

The Purpose in Leadership Inventory (PLI) was created for two audiences.

Leadership Researchers: First, the PLI is designed for researchers in the field of leadership studies. Developing new instruments to measure leadership variables is one of the keys to ongoing advancement of the field. As the field of leadership studies has grown throughout the last century, noticeable shifts are occurring. The PLI is designed to capture some of these shifts, and help researchers understand which leadership factors are associated with effectiveness in diverse organizational contexts.

Leadership Practitioners: Second, the PLI is designed for engaged leadership practitioners who desire to study the place of goal-orientation, follower-focus, and purpose-in-leadership within their organizations and leadership practice. Diverse leaders approach leadership differently. The PLI allows leaders to gain insight into how followers perceive their leadership around these vital variables.

What Does the PLI Measure?

As mentioned above, the PLI measure three core leadership variables. These are:

  • Goal Orientation
  • Follower Focus
  • Purpose in Leadership

The first two capture variables highlighted in a previous post: People or Production — Getting Things Done while Caring for People. A focus on accomplishing goals and getting things done is important for leaders. Equally import is a focus on caring for followers. Goal orientation and follower focus are the first two variables measured by the PLI.

The third variable is the significant addition to the leadership research stream. This variable is Purpose in Leadership. Purpose in leadership as a variable is based on the work of individuals such as Paul Wong who focus on meaning-centered approaches to leadership and management. These approaches take seriously the leaders’ sense of meaning and purpose.

Why Does this Matter?

The more I engage in leadership research, the more I’m convinced that purpose matters. Leaders who have a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives as leaders add value to their organizations. Such leaders help the members of the community understand that their work and organizational outcomes actually make a difference in the world.

As leader-centered models of the 20th century have been modified by more recent approaches such as transformational and servant leadership, the opportunity to reflect on the deeper meaning and purpose in leadership has emerged. The PLI is a tool to help leadership practitioners and researchers investigate the priority of these leadership variables.

I’m looking forward to seeing the additional research that will emerge through the Purpose in Leadership Inventory.