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How to be a Great Leader by Balancing Tension

Why it is hard, and why you should try

Leon Purton
Sparks Publication
Published in
10 min readAug 17, 2019

To lead is to see the shape of people — and the empty space in problems, then fit the people to that space and let them grow. If the problem space is too large, the stretch too far, you have failed them. If the problem space is too small, the fit too tight, you have failed them

I was asked recently to describe my leadership philosophy.

It took me some time to think about this, and even longer to crystallise it in my mind. When I reflected on the way I prepare my mentee’s for our relationship, I came to realise that I create a dynamic. One that I did not initially realise.

I need to admit that I didn’t always do this, I have learnt it over time, learnt what works — and you know how I learnt it. I sucked for a while and now I’m getting better. I certainly haven’t finished — this is a continuous challenge and one that I welcome.

So, what have I learnt — what do I know now? I worked out that it is at the ends of good that things get bad. Does that make sense? I’ll expand.

As a leader, you need to find the balance in the tension between genuine care for the person as a human, and challenging them to achieve things they do not believe they can.

This is a difficult tension to find and thrive in, I’ll explain more, and I’ll start with the ends that just don’t work.


I had a friend who cared so much. She wanted her staff to know that they could talk to her about anything. She would support them through everything. She regularly took in food, she answered calls on the weekends, she worked late to sort out paperwork for her staff.

She was a genuinely amazing person, and most people I have spoken to about her agree she has a huge heart. She really, genuinely cared and people adored that about her. She always made time for people, her door was always open as they say.

She also cared for her boss, and wanted the team to succeed so much. The problem is, she…



Leon Purton
Sparks Publication

Inspired by life. Leadership, Growth, Personal Development. Engineer and Sports Enthusiast. Top Writer in Leadership