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There’s a fascinating emerging set of literature on true leadership (versus management) of crises. One of the signal books in this genre is Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath. The author explains that true leaders are people whose names you don’t know. Why is that? Because true leaders use tools such as Latent Effects Modeling to discover in time T1 (i.e., now) what they will need to be worried about in time T3 (i.e., years later, when the bad thing could actually occur).
True leaders confront the latent effect now and develop remedies now, often quietly and without fanfare so that in time T3 the problem has vanished or is a dud.
Managers, on the other hand, are celebrated. They are seen to “grip the problem” and show a can-do attitude about fixing the mess that’s been created. We need information! What’s the size of the problem? Bring the statisticians in quickly! Let’s have a task force to manage this crisis with discipline and resolve!
This is not to disparage titans of government, industry, and the military who gained fame for their management. It’s to remind us that we have grown comfortable with a leadership paradigm that allows the proverbial “poop” to hit the fan, then look around desperately for someone to rescue the matter.
Under this paradigm, all manner of predictions are demanded from data modelers after the bad news hits. But there’s really no voice amid the din to say, “the science of prediction could have been managed in a more humanity-serving way.”
Leadership Starts With Asking The Right Questions
True leaders could potentially ask astoundingly good questions about what they should be worrying about now if they have the will to do so and enlightenment to listen to the results. Here are just a few rough ideas: