It’s A Paradox #1
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

We don’t often use the word paradox, so I thought I would start with a definition. Paradox is a noun defined as a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that, when investigated or explained, may prove to be well-founded or true. Leadership is filled with paradoxes. Author Tim Elmore has written a wonderful book called The Eight Paradoxes of Leadership. I recently read this book and fell in love with the following paradox: leaders lead their teams collectively and personally. I know this sounds impossible. After all, it is a paradox, but let me show why this is important and how we can lead in both ways simultaneously.

People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. They leave for other opportunities because they don’t feel valued and their boss makes no effort to know them as a person. That is probably why 65% of American workers are disengaged at work. Well, you know me well enough by now to know that I am not going to leave you with a negative. Let’s look at how we can correct this based on the paradox that leaders lead collectively and personally.

  1. On the collective side, leaders see the big picture. On the personal side, they see each team member’s story. Who are they as a person? What are their hopes, dreams, and beliefs?
  2. On the collective side, they lead a no one person is more important than the mission. On the personal side, they lead as if each person is more important than their job.
  3. On the collective side, they focus on professional development for each team member. On the personal side, they provide personal development tailored to the team member’s giftedness, hopes, and dreams.
  4. On the collective side, great leaders steward the mission. On the personal side, they steward the team member’s talent and energy.
  5. On the collective side, the best leaders lead by caring for the goal. On the personal side, they lead individuals caring for their lives.

I love the way Tim spelled out this paradox. It really is quite simple if we take the time to know our team members. I am reminded of this historical account. A reporter was covering President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s funeral. He came across a man kneeling in the street as the funeral procession made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue. As he approached the man, he could see tears streaming down his cheeks. He gently asked the mourner if he knew the President. The man replied tenderly, “no, but he knew me.”

Everyone deserves to be led well.