Love It and Hate It at the Same Time
Two contradictory truths can be simultaneously true.
I think of this principle every year when, in May, our crape myrtle bush is an unsightly, brown gaggle of bare branches. As June turns to July, the branches get longer, greener, and fill with buds. In August the buds bloom in such an extraordinarily beautiful way, they’re a topic of conversation with guests, and then those gorgeous flowers begin to shrivel and fade away in September and October.
The contradiction I experience each summer is that while I love this bush when it’s in full bloom, I hate that this means summer is nearing its end. I love it and I hate it at the same time.
Leadership and Contradictory Truths
Leadership also offers contradictory truths that can be simultaneously true. A few examples from clients I’ve had the opportunity to work with:
~ A highly productive team member is also the center of the drama and conflict within the team.
The challenge: What’s most important— productivity or team harmony?
~ A leader that team members admire and respect secretly endures such great self-doubt that part of his/her leadership expertise is never fully experienced.
The challenge: What’s most important— leadership of others or leadership of self?
~ Leadership priorities shift and change as organizational updates are announced. This keeps the leader focused on what’s most important today while potentially leaving other essential tasks incomplete.
The challenge: What’s most important— keeping up with the ‘new and improved’ methods or finding ways to manage the ‘new’ while buttoning up the ‘old’?
A Plan to Manage Those Contradictory Truths
Contradictions like these cause confusion, fear of failure, and difficulty with decision making. But they don’t have to. With a solid plan in place (like the one shared below), decisions can be made with confidence and conviction.
- Be aware. Take time to clearly identify the contradictory truths in question. Sometimes this requires a leader to slow down enough to even notice what’s happening. With the many responsibilities leaders manage, taking time to slow down allows space for some much-needed clarity and awareness.
- Evaluate your assumptions. Examine your own biases and preconceptions. Sometimes contradictions arise from our own values and beliefs. Be willing to challenge your assumptions and consider the possibility that both contradictory truths are valid within different contexts.
- Consider the middle ground. It’s possible that a middle ground or compromise exists. Explore ways to reconcile or integrate conflicting information.
- Analyze consequences. Assess the potential consequences for each contradictory truth. Determine how each truth impacts your team members, overall team results, and the relationships within the team.
- Adapt and evolve. Recognize that managing contradictory truths is an ongoing process. As circumstances change and new information is available, be prepared to adapt your understanding and decisions.
- Communicate effectively. Clearly share your understanding of the situation and the reasons behind your decisions. Foster transparency by sharing your reasoning behind your decisions and keeping others updated as changes occur.
- Reflect and learn. Finally, it’s important to take some time to reflect on the experience of managing contradictory truths. Focus on the lessons learned, the improvements in your decision-making abilities, and the growth experienced for yourself and your team.
Your Opportunity to Grow Your Leadership Skills
Two contradictory truths can indeed be simultaneously true. When it comes to our crape myrtle bush, I remind myself I get to witness its gorgeous growth each summer. And even though I’m never happy to see summer end, I’ll get to experience it again next year.
What if you viewed your leadership growth through that same lens? You won’t love every part of it; sometimes it feels clumsy and can get messy; but as you continue to work your way through those contradictory truths, you’ll also get to become an even better leader.