5 Paradoxes That Will Improve Your Leadership Effectiveness

“Good leadership consists of doing less and being more.” — John Heider, The Tao of Leadership

Soft is Strong

We may have been taught that leaders must be tough, rigid and forceful. Yet this often leads to outcomes that undermine leadership. Force creates resistance. Rules inspire rebellion.

Water is soft and flexible yet it can carve a canyon and wear down the largest stone. Those who know how to relax and adapt can operate with greater clarity and less stress. Kindness inspires trust. Yielding creates space for cooperation.

Slow is Fast

Some people equate leadership to showing a “sense of urgency” as though effectiveness is demonstrated by the workplace equivalent of road rage. We reward action over outcomes. No time to do it right but we find time to do it over.

When we respond slowly and deliberately it may seem to others that we don’t appreciate the importance or risk but in reality, we are demonstrating that it is too important to rush into a bad decision or overreaction. Our calm demeanor and thoughtful questions allow the team to pause and think clearly about the right next step.

Silence is Communication

We may have the idea that the leader is the loudest person in the room or the one with the most to say. This is rarely the case. The more we say the less we will be heard.

Often it is through our silence that we communicate the most important points. By allowing the group to talk without trying to take over or force the outcome, we are giving them greater autonomy and allowing the creativity and diversity of the team to emerge. When we are quiet and listen we show respect and strengthen understanding.

Stillness is Action

Some leaders feel they must intervene constantly. Always checking up or checking in. They keep a watchful eye on every person and activity and diligently rescue people from making mistakes. Unfortunately, this constant monitoring blocks learning and creates resentment and dependence, neither of which are good for the leader or the team.

When we learn to be still and observe, allowing the process to unfold, we will often find that our fears were unfounded. People appreciate the opportunity to prove themselves trustworthy and to learn from their mistakes. Ultimately, this means letting go of the need to feel needed. Recognizing that a strong, independent team is a sign of true leadership.

Simple is Complex

Leaders can get caught up in trying to impress with a complex solution when a more simple and elegant solution is available. We end up making things harder and rather than solving the problem at the most effective point and in the least intrusive manner. The team learns it is best not to bring up issues because the resolution is more painful than the problem.

Getting to the simple solution requires an open mind. We will need to engage more people, push for a deeper inquiry and apply more creativity. We have to be patient and willing to keep peeling back the layers until we get to the best approach. This can feel harder but the outcome will be more valuable and appreciated in the long term.


Originally published at soul2work.com on September 21, 2016.