Author: Edward Maggard

Date: July 19, 2021

I knew a leadership and planning consultant who maintained that 75% of leaders would rather solve problems than set goals. He determined this from interviewing hundreds of leaders in many varied situations. Because I am interested in such things, I started thinking about the obvious questions, like “Why would someone prefer one over the other?” And, “Does it matter?”

If you are the type of person who enjoys goal setting, you probably like checking off your accomplishments and working towards the future by challenging yourself to do more and achieving greater results. You may see problems as negative, or as necessary but not motivational.

If you are the type of person who loves solving problems, you are motivated by the challenge of the negative potential. Many leaders are like this. The idea of taking some problem that is bothering everyone or hindering progress and working with solutions until you fix it really energizes you.

The truth is, both are critical to your leadership. Whether you think of it in terms of setting goals that will solve the problems, or solving the problems that stand in the way of reaching our goals, the outcome can be the same positive step forward. So, why differentiate?

First, it is important to know how to talk to yourself about the issues you face in pursuing your future. Try making a list of problems you face and another list of goals you need to meet. Which one makes you feel more like jumping in and working hard? Whichever one is more motivating to you, try making a quick list of three things, either problems or goals, in the categories of your personal, professional and spiritual development.

Second, it is important to know how to talk to your team. If you are trying to get a goal-setter to solve problems, she may not be as motivated and may not even know why. Obviously, the reverse is true as well.

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