Summary of “The Power of Leaders Who Focus on Solving Problems”

The talk has covered a lot more than this, as Ming has touched on many initiatives and startups she’s been involved with, all solving problems at the intersection of advanced technology, learning, and labor economics.
She’s an entrepreneur, a CEO, and a teacher – all leadership roles – but when we ask her about her leadership style, she demurs.
“What I’ve learned about myself as a leader, as an executive, is – I’ll be blunt – I’m a pretty mediocre manager. I try to do the right things, but I’m much more focused on problems than I am on people, and that’s not always that healthy.” While she’s utterly confident in herself, she just doesn’t identify as top management.
“For a long time, I tried to be the whole package. I put a lot of energy into making certain that I was shepherding everyone along, doing all the right things for my teams. Then I realized: You know what? If I can get some people that are really good at the things that I’m not, then I can focus on my strengths. And my strengths are in creative problem solving – all the way down to writing the code myself.”
The attitude she’s espousing doesn’t really map to the traditional image of the enterprise leader, or to what typically gets taught in leadership development programs.
Over the past year, as faculty director and executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, we have been trying to put a finer point on a distinctive style of leadership we keep seeing all around us.
Cautiously, we called it problem-led leadership, and launched into all the interviewing, case studying, and literature review that goes into a leadership research project.
Having fallen in love with a problem, they step up to leadership – but only reluctantly, and only as necessary to get it solved.

The orginal article.