Of all the skills leaders require today, perhaps none is as challenging as adequately processing information. The ability to spot holes in data, conceive solutions and analyze results calls for sharp thinking.
Thinking can be broken down into two primary categories. We employ intuitive thinking during crises, when immediacy is required. By contrast, leaders sift through information, take time to gather data and draw conclusions when employing deliberative thinking.
In this over-information age, an alarming number of business plans fail because leaders ignore the facts needed to make sound decisions. Misguided perspectives can be blamed on a lack of data, wrong data or the inability to understand relevance. Even in hindsight, some leaders fail to see what went wrong.
Problem-solving leaders shouldn’t be expected to forsake their analytical skills or interests, but they can certainly use them in more helpful ways. All organizations have problems, requiring people with keen eyes and minds to solve them.
Problem solvers look at circumstances with a critical eye, never assuming systems work as well as they should. They’re motivated by risk mitigation and view problems in procedures or systems as weaknesses that jeopardize their future.
Many employees long for leaders who can solve workplace problems—from flawed systems and procedures to inconsistent policies and managers. They want their leaders to see through the trees and attack forest-sized issues, with the discernment and authority to fix them one by one.
In our fast-paced world, important issues never become simpler, only more complex. You have less time to take each course of action and make each choice, with an ever-increasing impact on outcomes. Decisions that don’t go well are critiqued and analyzed. The need to make good decisions has never been more paramount—not just for leaders’ well-being, but for everyone under their authority.
An organization’s health is only as sound as its leader’s decisions. Some companies prosper from wise leadership directions, while others struggle after flawed choices—the kind that receive extra publicity because of the adverse impact on their organizations, people and communities.
Leaders who convert critiques into improvements develop the strongest followings and have the fewest fears. They not only welcome feedback, but they request it. They view constructive feedback as free self-development lessons.
Self-confident leaders have a support network of solid relationships, which helps reduce fears and fosters unity. Trusted and respected friends can offer critiques without causing offense. We know our friends won’t discard us, which diminishes any fears of rejection. Building relationships with colleagues and subordinates similarly helps you grow and improve.