Managing Challenges: Are You Preventing, Minimizing, or Reacting

Lan Liu opens his “Conversations on Leadership: Wisdom from Global Management Gurus” with an interesting anecdote.

The King of Wei asked Bian Que, “You have two brothers who are doctors too. Which one of you three is the best?”

Bian Que answered, “My big brother is the best. The other  brother is also better than me. I am the worst but the most famous.”

The king was puzzled and inquired why.

Bian Que explained, “My big brother is the the best doctor because he sees disease and cures it even before the patient feels any symptoms. Yet this makes it hard for his greatness to be recognized this way. So he is only admired within my family.”

“The other brother, the second best, cures disease when it develops early symptoms that at most cause little pain. There he is regarded as only good at treating minor ailments and thus enjoys a small reputation in my hometown.”

“In my case, patients always come to me when their disease is at an advanced stage. They and their desperate families are so pleased when I perform dramatic measures such as puncturing, bloodletting, poisoning, and surgery, to  cure or relieve the disease. That is why I am famous  across borders.”

Which CEO are you:

  • monitoring early indicators to prevent deterioration,
  • managing symptoms and small pains to speed recovery,
  • waiting to see if it’s a real problem to react?

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