A new type of leadership: ‘The Problem-Solving Leaders’ — Damla Zeybel

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There’s no magic formula for being a good leader, but there are common traits in those who are — emotional quotient, empathy, transparency, strong communication skills and others. I hadn’t thought about leaders seeking and solving problems as a leadership style until I came across an article talking about just that.

It seems there are more ‘problem-led leaders’ emerging in today’s world, i.e. those who have a passion for seeking & solving complex issues and develop into problem-solving leaders along the way. The HBR article “The Power of Leaders who focus on Solving Problems” highlights the value of this style using a scholarly and passionate entrepreneur as an example.

As someone who is enthusiastic to work with these types of professionals, I can see how such qualities would likely be the most sought after. Especially in environments where risk-taking and innovation is not only permissible but encouraged.

For the problem-led leader, according to the authors, “leadership becomes an intermittent activity as people with enthusiasm and expertise step up as needed, and readily step aside when, based on the needs of the project, another team member’s strengths are more central….. Rather than being pure generalists, leaders pursue their own deep expertise, while gaining enough familiarity with other knowledge realms to make the necessary connections.…. It’s a key leadership talent, then, to know how to put together a team. To tackle a problem, they need to find the right talent and convince others that their project offers the chance to be part of a breakthrough.”

I have mentioned in previous pieces that more often than not technical staff gets promoted in leadership roles as a way of being rewarded; which is not always optimal.

While I feel there’s no question of how important problem-led leaders can be, I feel with only problems driving their passion, other needed qualities could fall on the way side. If the problem is driving the team composition, then leaving out those who do not fit the solution is very probable. Developing expertise would also come secondary, since the primary driver is picking the most skilled in the first place. On the other hand, this is the best talent to drive large scale and sustainable solutions, so their presence is crucial. I would personally call them ‘technical champions’ or something to that end. The leadership is more of a consequence than the intent.

No matter what they’re called, with more and more problems emerging in our world, we can surely use more of these kind of leaders by the day!

Read the full article here.

More on problem-solving leadership from the authors is available on the MIT Leadership Center site.

Read more from Damla or visit the home of Arya Effective.

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