[October 8, 2017] Henry Ford, one of the best known captains of American industry, said this decades ago but it still provides us with a good working leadership philosophy today. The difference between a follower and a leader can be summed up in these few words; where one person finds fault (or problems), the other finds solutions. Don’t find fault, find a remedy.
In the study of military leadership and in the practice of any successful profession, one thing that stands out is the everyday task of fixing problems. Junior leaders, as they learn, develop their problem-solving abilities. We’ve all been there … run into a problem and take it to our boss who provides a solution.
However, in the proper development of those junior leaders it is often best to send that person away but with the guidance to think over the problem (or fault), develop several possible courses of action to solve it, and come back with a recommendation. Whether any junior leader has the best solution is not as relevant as giving that same leader the opportunity to reorient their perspective (fault versus problem) and to exercise good judgment.
Experience gained cannot be overstated; repeated experiences are all the better. I was sent away by my commander many times with the directive to come back later with a recommended solution. The solution, however, must have been thoughtfully researched and analyzed with as many alternatives as could reasonably be developed in a short time. This allowed me to grow intellectually and as a leader.
I find this method of training promising young leaders used less and less today. The “boss” is more likely to assign someone else who is capable to find a solution or just solve it themselves. Such behavior is easier and quicker but fails to develop more junior personnel who need the time fighting through to a solution.
Such a leader is exercising lazy leadership and junior folks should be aware of it in order to counteract the imbalance it creates; strong leaders getting stronger, weaker leaders getting weaker. As a student of military history, I’m reminded of the senior European generals during World War One that failed completely to develop their junior officers properly. The result was carnage beyond our imagination today.
Fortunately, the answer before us on how to behave generally as a leader and specifically as a junior leader is better developed by those who have made the professional study of leadership. Don’t find fault, find a remedy is one of those leadership philosophies that I live by.
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