As I watched the season finale of Game of Thrones yesterday it reminded me of one of the most important lessons we need to learn as leaders, and that is what does success look like, real success.
Sometime we think we know, but often we only see the the problem and removing the problem is not the same as finding a solution, let alone a good solution.
In Game of Thrones, Daenerys, the mother of Dragons, has freed the slaves of several cities she has visited, which is a very noble and generous thing to do.
Yet in last nights episode one of these freed slaves requested that they be allowed to go back to their master and becomes slaves again.
Why? Because just freeing them from slavery wasn’t a solution, they needed a new life, not just liberating from an old one. They needed a solution finding for them, not just their current problem being removed.
Now whilst it’s easy for us to look at that and think, well surely you must be better off now, it was clear that without a new solution these people were lost, and actually worse off than before.
So as leaders we need to not just see the problem, but also the long term solution. We need to have a clear picture of what success looks like, and that picture needs to include a vision of success for everyone, not just the liberators.
Whilst Game of Thrones is fictional, this episode comes at a very timely moment, one where we see the troubles in Iraq escalate.
In my opinion, these trouble are also the result of not having a clear picture of success in mind. It’s as if Bush and Blair just felt that removing Saddam Hussein would be he solution, whereas he was actually maybe only the problem – in their eyes.
Where is the long term solution for the people of Iraq? Long terms peace, better quality of life, an improvement on what has gone on before. I am sure that if asked today, many would prefer the return of Saddam rather than the situation that they now find themselves in.
I remember Colin Powell saying right at the start of the Gulf War 2 that the allies needed to have a clear picture of what success looked like. But it appears that, like Daenerys, they only saw a problem which needed removing, rather a solution.
As leaders we need to see both the problem and the solution. Take world hunger for example, when we look for a solution to that, we also need to understand what we will do with the increased population.
I am not suggesting we should not solve that problem, but when we do solve that problem, we also need to ensure that we have a solution of a better life for the people, meaningful jobs, a meaningful future which will allow them to lead meaningful and happy lives.
We cannot just solve one problem which then causes another and believe that our work is done.
Leaders see the bigger picture, the full solution, not just the problem directly in front of them.