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Short-term benefits of firefighting (solving problems as they come) will be visible, but when a manager plays the long game, they think of the entire life cycle of the project, and the organization as a whole.
Preventing problems before they arise may not be as visible as solving problems, but is the right, proactive approach.
Leaders become a scapegoat when things go southwards, as there is a general assumption that everything is their responsibility, so every problem is their own fault. This leads to ‘learned helplessness’, where we ignore our own responsibility and blame others.
Taking the analogy of a ship, if something goes wrong, everyone including the captain is at risk, and is also equally responsible for the problem and for finding a potential solution. One cannot sit back and let others scramble, or blame the captain.
The work of Problem Preventers is invisible, as they seem relaxed, go home on time, and need lots of time to think. They don’t experience much conflict as they already prevent the same. The invisibility of the work they do leads to a wrong perception of them.
Problem Solvers are not united towards any clear goal, but make use of the fundamental flaw in most organisations: Rewarding the solving of problems. They let things go wrong and then step in to fix them, creating visibility. This becomes a zero-sum game after wasting resources and energy.
Taking complete ownership and leading by example makes for a more independent team, as it instils a certain autonomy in the team members.
They are now not just performing certain tasks or following instructions but can respond to any unexpected development as they all have a sense of responsibility. Any potential problem benefits from ‘second-order thinking’ and is noticeable before it turns serious.
Failure is part of the learning process and a good leader understands that it cannot be a sunny day every day.
The team members are not insulated from failure but are given the space and support to create their own path towards success.
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