The Paradox of Leadership
The paradox of leadership lies in being a unique individual while staying in relationship with others in the system you are leading. You have a strong sense of self and you connect with those who look to you for guidance.
As a leader, you and you alone are responsible for taking care of yourself, since you cannot depend on your followers to be aware of your emotional and physical limits. You keep a thin line between you and them so that they feel safe with you. When you cross that line to get your needs met you undermine their confidence in you, and endanger your self-respect. This does not mean that you stand alone on a marble plinth, far from it. In fact, admitting that you are human is a vital part of being an effective leader. Authority is about much more than being in power; it is about modeling behavior that works in the real world.
Striking a balance between your needs and the needs of the group is an ongoing and often challenging process. When your supply of energy is low you take time off to recharge your batteries so that you do not make errors of judgment. When you feel renewed you give freely of your time and energy.
Like a compass with a true north, your values are the guidelines you use to decide what will work and what will not work for you and the group. Your goal is to be true to these values while under pressure, since consistency inspires trust in the people who follow your lead.
Values are a function of knowing what is good, true, and worthwhile. And since your feelings tell you what you value you manage the pace of your life so that you have time to process what you feel. You are aware that overextension is the number one cause of failure so you cannot be tempted to take on more than you and the group can handle.
Values change over time, but a few will remain constant throughout your life. Conflicts arise when your values are no longer in harmony with the group or, more accurately, when your own values are in conflict. This occurs when what you thought was important no longer interests you, as when you have mastered a task and need to move on, or when the group’s goals are at odds with your values.
For example, you may be torn between the need to innovate (creativity) and the group’s need to stay where they are (security). This is often a reflection of your own (unconscious) warring values. Unless you resolve the inner conflict you project that dissatisfaction onto the group, who mirror your conflict through resistance to your leadership.
To make sure that your values are in harmony and that they match the values of the people you serve, study the following list of 14 values. Select the five values that you need now in order to feel successful, both as a leader and an individual. Why only five of the values you may ask? Narrowing your values down to the five that are important to you now will eliminate distractions. This will allow you to focus on goals you and your group can reach.
The five values you select not only define what you think is important they also define the group’s priorities, and the priorities of your ideal customers and clients. Additionally, these values indicate the job, business, and relationships that will work for you.
- Security. Security is safety, certainty, and similarity between prediction and events. Most people are risk averse, especially in times of upheaval, when the need for protection is high. Dependable financial institutions fulfill the need for security, as do the armed services, fire and police organizations, and insurance firms. Keep in mind that security is not money; it is the need to know what is going to happen. Predictability is the objective of institutions and leaders who value security.
- Status. Status is the state or condition of a person in the eyes of others. When you and your group value status you want to be known by the public, or as an easily recognized activity, such as that of the members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a nationally recognized consulting or law firm. Anonymity is not your cup of tea. Your position, the respect of colleagues and the people you serve, all are important when you value status.
- Compensation. Compensation is money. This can also take the form of perquisites like travel and entertainment expenses, automobiles, bonuses, stock options, or other forms of remuneration for services rendered. If money is your priority remember that it will also be a high value for those you lead.
- Achievement. Achievement is the accomplishment of a desired objective. Mastery of a task, project, or goal is important when you value achievement. If you like beating the odds achievement will be on your top-five list, and the lists of those who follow you. Think of the Navy SEALS, actors, entrepreneurs, doctors, investors, and others who take big emotional and financial risks.
- Advancement. Advancement is the desire to improve and to progress. Climbing the ladder to success a step at a time appeals to those who value advancement. This can mean slow growth in expertise, knowledge, and wisdom.
- Affiliation. Affiliation is the desire to associate with people of like mind, a team with whom you identify. This is an important value if you are an extroverted leader who needs interaction with a group of people in order to accomplish your objectives.
- Recognition. Recognition is special notice or attention for individual or team effort. Leaders who value recognition will work long and hard to have this value met. In the process of achieving their goals they help others to gain recognition.
- Authority. Authority is the power or right to command, direct, and manage. This value is characteristic of people who want to be in charge. They like to be right on the line, in battle, in business, and as a personal example.
- Independence. Independence is freedom from the control of another. Leaders who value independence often choose creativity as one of their top-five values since they need freedom in order to create. The people they lead also value freedom and creativity.
- Altruism. Altruism is concern for the welfare of others. This value is high on the lists of people who want to improve others’ lives through help, comfort, and inspiration, such as health care workers, counselors, ministers, charity workers, and public servants.
- Creativity. Creativity is finding new, improved ways to do anything. The urge to innovate and make new combinations comes from deep within people who value creativity. Since they are always changing and growing they need freedom to act on their instincts, at the right time and in the right place.
- Ethical harmony. Ethical harmony is the need for moral values to be reflected in the leader’s work and in the behavior of the people they lead. Honesty, fair dealing, and walking the talk are vital to leaders who choose ethical harmony as one of their top-five values.
- Intellectual stimulation. Intellectual stimulation is the need to be in an environment that encourages, supports, and promotes innovative thinking, such as technology, academia, research, marketing, publishing, or any activity that requires analytical ability.
- Variety. Variety is diversity of activity, tasks, and people, a wide spectrum of all three. Leaders who need variety get bored when their work is repetitive. They like something new coming in all the time, people, events, and ideas.
- Aesthetics. Aesthetics is more than a love of beauty; it is a desire for connection with the highest good in one’s work, surroundings, and relationships. Leaders who value aesthetics bring order to the world through their creations in home decor, fashion, photography, art, literature, music, dance, and architecture.
Select the five values that are important to you. Does your current leadership role reflect these values? Do the people you serve have the same values? If only one or two of your values is being met it is time for a radical change. If just one or two of your values are not being met then a slight correction may be all that is needed to balance your life.
For example, if your current leadership role is not giving you independence and creativity, move to a smaller, more entrepreneurial setting, or start your own business or private practice. Perhaps you need to write a book or produce a film that entertains or informs others. If the only value not being met on your list is affiliation then reaching out to other leaders will resolve the conflict.
When your leadership role fulfills all of your top-five values you will succeed in spite of all opposition. Because your goals are aligned with your group’s hopes and dreams you resolve the paradox of leadership.