The Leadership Pendulum
We’ve all been in the grocery story with the parent that has no control over a single child under his watch. This tiny menace is typically grabbing things off the shelf, invading the space of strangers, and can often be found throwing a temper tantrum at the first sign of things not going the exact way his four year old mind thinks it should. It’s brutal to watch.
We’ve all also been in a store with the parent that corrects, loudly and publicly, the slightest contrary act of their child. There is no sign of menacing behavior, many times we wonder if the child is allowed to make any decisions on their own or if they can do anything that would be viewed as ‘right’ by their adult. This is equally brutal to watch.
The accommodator and the commander represent the two extremes of the leadership pendulum.
A pendulum we must be intentional to control.
Why Should We Care
Too accommodating and we rob those we are leading of the struggle necessary to grow. In an effort to relieve immediate pain, we are unknowingly choosing to restrict long-term potential. The coddling and pacifying only sooth your need for comfort. It helps no one.
Oddly enough, consistent commanding does much of the same thing. By assuming absolute control, we fail to allow those we lead to take risks, make mistakes, and come up short - or succeed beyond our expectations. This desire to direct every movement is our egotistical claim that we know best. Again, we are attempting to avoid the struggle necessary for growth. Again, to sooth our need for comfort.
To be clear, both extremes have a place in which they are the perfect approach to leading, though it’s not often. Like most things, the best answer for most people is typically somewhere in between. Choosing which to use when is much of the art of leadership.
That choice, which is a big one. One you should consider carefully.
Also, one that requires a significant level of self-awareness.
Self-awareness is clearly a superpower - as you interact with people you quickly realize the number of people that are truly self-aware and the people that can fly aren’t far apart. Yet it’s so critical for our development as leaders, and people.
Self-awareness precedes every change we make in our lives. Progress is virtually impossible without it. Yet, so many of our routines and interests pull us further and further from the actualization to move us forward.
Self-awareness isn’t an optional trait for leaders pursuing excellence.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Here are a few questions to consider when trying to decide how you will best lead yourself and others. Our answers to these questions will be significant in identifying where we fall on the leadership pendulum between accommodating and commanding. Think about them. Write down your answers.
*Questions are from Joe Ehrmann’s book InsideOut Coaching.
The leadership pendulum isn’t really a thing, but it serves as a great metaphor to prompt some self reflection that increases your awareness. Once aware, we can choose. Until then we will remain a victim of our circumstances and at the mercy of those around us.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.