Management ying and yang

By Tony Schwartz via nytimes.com   Article

Why Great Leaders See More and Exclude Less

“The central dilemma of a modern leader is to balance apparently conflicting virtues and beliefs without choosing sides between them. …

Consider, for a moment, these seemingly paradoxical qualities:

■ Results-focused/Reflectiveness

■ Honesty/Compassion

■ Tough-mindedness/Gentleness

■ Confidence/Humility

■ Rationality/Intuition

■ Intelligence/Curiosity

■ Passion/Composure

■ Practicality/Vision

Is there any doubt that for each set of pairs above, most of us tend to favor one more than the other? Or that as a culture — especially in business and especially for those in leadership roles — we value the constellation of virtues on the left far more than we do those on the right?

We crave certainty because it makes us feel more safe. But in an increasingly complex and pluralistic world, there aren’t any simple solutions. Great leaders are defined today not by having the right answers but by the willingness to embrace and grapple with conflicting and sometimes paradoxical ‘truths.’

Nearly all of us perceive honesty as a virtue. It gives us a solid ground to stand on, and therefore makes us more trusting and secure. Or does it? Honesty overused — treated as a singular virtue by itself — can actually lead to cruelty.

A leader may deliver harsh feedback, in a spirit of honesty, to get an employee to change a behavior. But often that leads to just the opposite. The recipient feels attacked and responds with defensiveness and resentment, too threatened to take in the feedback, even if it is accurate. Communicating feedback effectively requires holding each of these seemingly opposite poles — honesty and compassion — and continuously moving between them as circumstances demand.”

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