Sunday, April 10, 2016

Singapore: Solutions-Oriented Leadership Case Study

The ultimate test of a leader is not what you are able to do in the here and now - but instead what continues to grow long after you gone. - Tom Rath, Strengths-Based Leadership
Being a solutions-oriented leader means you are focused on fixing a course for the future. While you know that identifying errors and obstacles, holding people accountable, and creating procedures to prevent future missteps are important, recognizing what is right rather than what is wrong will take you closer to your goals. You are interested in being proactive instead of reactive.

Things will not always go your way. You will not always have all the resources you think you need.

The point is to focus on what you do have and how you can make the most of it. Try writing down what you do have, no matter how small, to really see them as your assets. This change in focus often opens your mind to finding creative options and resources you never realized you had.

The country of Singapore is a great example of solutions-oriented leaders recognizing the obstacles but focusing on finding solutions - to great success.

After years of struggle under British colonialism, Japanese occupation during WWII, and the spread of communism in the region, Singapore agreed to a merger with Malaysia.  Unfortunately, it did not last long.

Singapore faced high unemployment, high crime rates, low education rates, a large immigrant population, racial divisions, no national identity, few economic opportunities, lack of natural resources, lack of land, lack of housing, and very little infrastructure. But the most pressing problem was lack of sovereign security. Sudden independence with no plan or protection meant other countries might attack, or forcibly absorb, Singapore into their countries on unfavorable terms.

Singapore made their number one priority international recognition by the United Nations as a sovereign nation.

Their second priority was to develop and invest heavily in economic growth. Recognizing the strategic location of the country, Singapore expanded its ports and encouraged the industrialization of the country through imports and export of raw materials and finished goods. The country also promoted its strategic port to international oil companies as a refinery location. A busy port also created a service industry for ships calling on port and the increased commerce.

Their third priority was the creation of a national identity. During all this economic development, the leaders of Singapore took every opportunity to demonstrate to the people of Singapore that citizenship did not depend on race but on their contributions to their homeland and their merit as individuals. Both the economy and national identity began to take shape.

Just as things were looking up for Singapore, they were hit with the two oil crisis. Suddenly the largest driving force of their economy, refineries and port calls, proved to be potentially unstable.

This time the solution-oriented leaders made education, housing, industry, productivity, and creating a defense force their priorities:
  • Began an economic restructuring by modifying education policies while expanding technology and computer education - focusing on practical rather than intellectual applications. 
  • Offered financial incentives to industrial enterprises and productivity campaigns. 
  • Took steps to encourage apartment ownership and offered opportunities for citizens to do so. 
  • Consulted international experts in creating their own defense and maritime forces and training schools, including mandatory two and a half year national service for adult males. 
These programs caused the diverse population to begin living and working together for a common purpose - thereby increasing the country's economic opportunities while solidifying their national identity and diminishing racial division.

Upon the next crisis - neighboring countries exporting the same products for much lower prices -  Singapore's investments in its own people bore real fruit. The country upgraded its industries to higher-technology industries, such as the water-fabrication industry, and the skilled workforce with an aptitude for learning made the transition easy.

Singapore 2015
Today, Singapore is among the top 20 nations in the global prosperity index.

Like all countries, Singapore still has problems to solve, but their past leaders demonstrated that all obstacles can be overcome with solutions-oriented leadership mentality and creative planning.

None of the successes of Singapore were accidental occurrences. The solutions-oriented leaders literally mapped out the resources they had, the obstacles they faced, and how they could use their resources to move toward the future.

The leaders continuously re-evaluated their progress, along with the world economy landscape, in determining what changes they needed to make in order to assure their place in the future. They were never tied to one solution but instead focused on their future goal, even if it meant changing direction.

They recognized how each resource, no matter how small, even if the resource seemed intimately connected to an obstacle or was a long-term investment, could be leveraged to create something new.

Because creating something new was the only option available to them.

Do you focus on the obstacles or the future? Is solving the problem or finding fault your priority?

Have you listed out your resources, no matter how small? Has it helped you see other resources or options you had not thought of before?

When you plan for the future, do you prioritize your actions or just do what seems easiest first?

Do you consider both the obstacles and the possible solutions in relation to each other as well as where you are trying to go?

Can you easily change direction when necessary or do you get tied to the chosen solution or action?

Are you able to keep focused on the goal and maintain distance from the solution or action so you can identify when you need to change, modify, or replace the solution or action?

Deedra Abboud is the founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, a "rising tide raising all boats" resource on the art and science of finding solutions, not fault - at work, at home, and in the community. She is an author, lawyer, and frequent media resource. When she's not helping clients or speaking at organization events, she's traveling the world.  At last count, she's been to 15 countries including United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, China, Egypt, Mexico, United Kingdom, Italy, and Turkey.

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