Leadership Tensions – New Series

Leaders live in a constant state of tension. 

They live between what is and what could be.  They straddle the known and the unknown.  They wrestle the probable with the possible.  They balance status quo with innovation.

They have to understand where we are and yet convince us it’s worth taking the next step.

There are numerous tensions great leaders navigate each and every day.  And living with these tensions is a tension in and of itself.  This constant tug and pull stretches you to either expand and grow or to snap under the stress.

These tensions of leadership fascinate me.  Well, really they frustrate me.  But in studying that frustration, I’ve learned that identifying and naming these tensions allows me to see them as part of  my leadership growth rather than a nuisance to avoid.  I don’t think the tensions ever go away.  Leading through these tensions is at the heart of what we do as leaders.  It’s the essence of my “grey leadership theory”.

So for the next several weeks, we’ll discuss a specific leadership tension each Monday.

Here are some that I have on my list:

  • Excellence vs. Perfection
  • Intentionality/intensity vs. Passivity
  • Tender vs. Tenacious
  • Ownership vs. Stewardship
  • Ambition vs. Self-control
  • Who vs. What (in hiring)
  • Criticism vs. Coaching
  • Policies vs. Filters
  • Transparency vs. Vulnerability
  • Fans vs. Followers
  • Head vs. Heart
  • Communication vs. Bureaucracy
  • Ownership vs. Control
  • Independence vs. Co-dependence

What leadership tensions are you facing?  Let’s add them to the list!

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  • Jesse Santoyo September 23, 2012  

    Great post. It is so easy to confuse some of these tensions for what they really are, and how they are there to benefit our growth and not stun it.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jenni Catron September 24, 2012  

      So true, Jesse. It’s easy to get bogged down and discouraged by them rather than see them as opportunities.

  • Louise Lankford-Dunlap September 23, 2012  

    What to do/What to leave undone

  • Conwayfour September 24, 2012  

    Sounds like a great series. Looking forward to the discussions.

  • Wendy Mason September 24, 2012  

    Hi Jenni – I’m looking forward to this series.  Yesterday I read that leadership is really about the ability to read a map.  Maps come in so many languages and I think at least part of leadership is about being able to draw the map, not just a route on it.

    • Jenni Catron September 24, 2012  

      That’s a great analogy, Wendy!

  • Karla Renfro September 24, 2012  

    “I don’t think the tensions ever go away.”   – This one line was both depressing and freeing / hope filled. 
    I love to think one day the tension will go away, I will grow out of it,  read a book that will solve all my problems or one day I will just be more “mature” and the tension will be gone; but at the same time, I also like knowing I am not alone. 🙂 

  • Margaret September 26, 2012  

    Amen for the tension! Part of what sets a leader apart is how they handle this tension. Most would snap. A strong, healthy leader (the type we’re all aiming to be) will not