Opportunity Focused Leadership

Do you aim to be a problem-focused leader or an opportunity focused leader?

Many work environments place a premium on leaders with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. However, that premium often places too much emphasis on being critical and dealing with problems. In such workplaces, leaders can become downers, always harping on what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. Such leaders often resort to stoking people’s fears to motivate them to get things done. This fear-stoking is exemplified by one of the most overused phrases in the history of business: What keeps me awake at night is . . .

Think about it. When leaders talk about (or more often brag about) what keeps them awake at night, aren’t they really just showcasing their fears and anxieties? It’s as if some leaders believe that the only way they’ll get any rest is to make the entire workforce share in their fears. Unless people are as afraid as they are, the leaders think that no one will be motivated enough to address whatever is causing them to lose sleep. But putting people on your 24-hour fear cycle isn’t motivating at all—insomnia shouldn’t be a leadership badge of honor.

Leaders would be better served to talk about what gets them up in the morning instead of what keeps them awake at night. Opportunity attracts and excites employees more than problems do. People want to follow leaders who have such confidence in them and the opportunities that the future holds. People want to follow leaders who sleep soundly at night.

What Does Opportunity Attract?

Opportunity pulls.

Leading by stoking people’s fears provokes anxiety and negative thoughts of impending painful consequences. Opportunities, on the other hand, are hopeful situations that evoke positive thoughts of pleasurable rewards. Leadership is most effective when it moves people toward a desired outcome, rather than getting them to run away from a bad outcome. Opportunity attracts; fear repels.

Opportunity points in the right direction.

When you are talking about opportunities, you are talking about the conditions you want, instead of the conditions you want to prevent from happening. Because outcomes often follow the direction of our thoughts, it’s best to focus on what you want. Saying, “Our opportunity is to keep the ball in the air,” is better than “Whatever you do, don’t drop that ball!”

Opportunity activates the imagination.

We “take advantage of” or “capitalize on” opportunities. They are conditions that don’t yet exist and require people’s hard work and imagination to be fully exploited.

Opportunity inspires courage.

Opportunities are not “sure things” and the positive outcome you hope to create is not guaranteed. Thus, opportunities come with potential risks. The risk is what infuses the pursuit of opportunities with excitement.

Opportunity begets opportunity.

Wouldn’t you rather have your employees coming to you with new ideas and opportunities they want you to support, instead of problems they want you to resolve? When you model opportunistic thinking, you increase the likelihood of building a self-sufficient, “can-do” spirit among employees.

A leader’s primary job is to actively create opportunities that bring about real and concrete benefits. A leader should leave us better off than they found us. Leaders don’t sell hope. In fact, they don’t sell anything. Leaders build. Leaders experiment. They act. They create. Opportunity focused leaders help lay the groundwork for others.

Opportunity is all around you and as a leader, it’s your job to find and embrace that opportunity. How will you weed out the problems and become an opportunity focused leader?

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

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