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Cultivate Leaders Who are Focused on Solving Problems


If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you’ve undoubtedly seen the person who spends a lot of time in meetings pointing out all the problems inherent in a business strategy, execution plan, personnel decision, or corporate direction. Pointing out the flaws is easy. However, your human capital development should focus on finding and developing leaders who are more adept at solving problems than pointing them out. With an understanding of such leaders’ approaches to problems, it’s much clearer how to cultivate leaders who are focused on solving problems.


Leaders who approach problems with an eye on solutions are practicing, either individually or in teams, the concept of challenge-driven leadership. What do such leaders have in them that’s different from others?

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, such leaders are eager to meet problems head-on and seek to address challenges with creativity and skills. Ideally, these leaders exist in multiple layers of management within your organization. They don’t need to be the leader and are driven by factors other than authority, power or status.

It’s a heady concept and one that requires a commitment to recruiting the right employees and leadership training programs that encourage and celebrate a new approach.


It does not mean that the fundamental approaches to problem-solving do not still apply. The standard sequence of problem-solving can still be used:


• Define the problem

• Assess why the problem exists

• Establish the process for making decisions about the problem

• Fostering problem-solving strategies

• Selecting the best solution

• Implementing the solution

• Evaluating the solution and refining


The difference is how leaders oversee and influence within each of these steps and, as a consequence, shape outcomes.


The PricewaterhouseCoopers approach looks for leaders that take a different view of problems, with a focus on the following skills and attributes:


Anti-leader leadership. Many challenge-driven leaders are seeking to solve big problems in partnership with other like-minded people, not for the trappings of power.

Passion for problems. Challenge-driven leaders are looking for complex problems that require complex solutions.

Foundational expertise. Successful challenge-driven leaders come at problems with a foundational knowledge and skills required to do the work. Often this specialized expertise is best applied with insights from other similarly knowledgeable people from other disciplines.

High tolerance for others. A team approach to problem-solving means people need to put aside their frustrations or irritations caused by quirks of others on the team. Sometimes, however, this means that challenge-driven leaders do not see a need to focus on team members’ emotional or social needs.

Status quo is not acceptable. Challenge-based leaders often are itching to change the status quo, looking for solutions that challenge assumptions and norms to address problems at hand.

Analytically focused. Analysis matters and challenge-based leaders are apt to rely on data and the insights derived from analyzing those data points, rather than impressionistic or anecdotal information.

Seeking something different. Motivation is different among challenge-driven leaders. They do not seek a plush corner office, want the trappings and perks of leadership or engage in office politics.


At Center for Victory, we help companies develop the kinds of leaders that take innovative and effective approaches to problem-solving. Contact us to see how our assessment tools and programs can help drive better problem-solving in your organization.



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