Today’s problems seem more challenging and less straightforward than ever before. In our communities we are grappling with complex issues like how to keep our young people here, create more local jobs and revenue, and develop accessible, affordable rural transportation. Even complex problems have a roadmap, handbook or owner’s manual. But what do we do when the instructions aren’t included?
From what I learned at Harvard this summer, our new “adaptive” problems have no roadmap, or the “map” we have is from 100 years ago. In such cases, today’s leaders need to authorize action, assemble the right team, then motivate and inspire action. Easy, right? Successful “adaptive” leaders also know how to embrace uncertainty and messy processes, use data over intuition, and not confuse meetings with action. They spend less time fretting about establishing a routine or controlling the future and focus more on finding and exploiting opportunities in even the most daunting tasks.
The key seems to be having the ability to: identify “adaptive problems” from the start; not spending time, energy and money looking for the guidebook that doesn’t exist; and then managing the expertise and passion needed to build the plane as it flies. True leaders run towards big issues and knowing how to approach today’s really, really hard problems will empower the best results for all – including here locally – in these challenging times.
Submitted by Mike Perry, President of The Lindsay Chamber of Commerce