Think about the number of times your instinctive response doesn’t help you when it comes to leadership. Someone’s performance misses the mark. You can yell, “That was stupid!” or engage them in dialog by asking open-ended questions. Or how about this one, you’ve got too much on your plate to do, but you can’t bring yourself to delegate.
In each of these instances what’s required for leadership seems absurd or self-contradictory until it is further investigated. That’s the very definition of a paradox. It turns out that they’re all around us.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the productivity paradox? It simply states that “Worker productivity may go down, despite technological improvements.” Think about it. Despite the benefit of faster, smarter, bigger, better technology, people’s productivity still goes down. That one might be a bit hard to stomach, despite how much evidence supports it.
How about the prisoner’s dilemma? It suggests that “Two people might not cooperate even if its in both their best interests to do so.” Now this one you’ve surely seen, especially among your coworkers. It seems like it makes so much sense for people at the same company to work together and get along. But it’s often not the case.
The Paradoxes Required to Lead People…
It was in his sophomore year at Harvard that Kent Keith wrote a booklet titled: The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council. In Chapter 2 he laid out ten “Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership.”
Mother Teresa posted a version of the list on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta. As a result some attributed the “commandments” to her. But it was Kent who compiled them first.
Here is Kent Keith’s original list of paradoxes associated with leading people.
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down
by the smallest men with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Why they matter
I wish I could tell you that none of these really matter, but the business of business is people. No matter what “business you’re in,” no matter where you are in your company or organization, your ability to lead, guide, direct, or influence people matters. And how successful you become, depends on your ability to embrace the list of paradoxes above.
Creating Space for Reflection
Take a moment to review the list of 10 paradoxes.
Which paradox seems most absurd in your experience?
What do you purpose to do, anyway, to expand your influence with people?
Here’s to your next level,
Image Credit: Anders Sandberg via flickr