Leadership is full of contradictions. Without them, leadership would be a walk in the park. We could make decisions quickly and easily, as the answer would be straightforward. Yet I know every person reading this understands the complexity of leading. We need to draw from both our ferocity and our warmth to balance results and relationships. The visual image for Ferocious Warmth is the infinity symbol.
Every moment of the day we draw from our head and heart, the evidence base and the beliefs, the cognition and the emotion. Blending apparent opposites makes ferocious warmth a powerful leadership approach as it builds the capability to ride the ‘yet’ of perceived dichotomy.
DANCING WITH PARADOX
At the centre of the infinity loop lies the ‘yet’. The yet gives us permission to hold the paradox of:
- Explicit, yet empowering
- Strategic, yet people focussed
- Challenging, yet providing psychological safety
- Director, yet co-creator
- Compassionate, yet with high expectations
- Courageous, yet vulnerable
- Open to influence, yet with purposeful intent
- Focussed, yet open to ambiguity and flexibility
- Realistic, yet optimistic.
Simultaneously reflecting on both sides of the equation takes curiosity and skill. If we’re driven by a strong set of principles that centre us, we can bring this duality together. Like an artist mixing two seeming opposing colours together, we end up with a third choice. It becomes a richer choice that incorporates strengths from both sides.
STANDING IN THE CENTRE
How do we stay poised in the moment – able to almost intuitively know where to place our focus or actions? It can be hard for many great leaders I know to articulate the breakdown of their thinking, because they work with unconscious competence. It seems they are in a flow state in this dance of Ferocious Warmth, drawing from where it’s needed to get the best outcomes. They identify a few key internal messages as if they’re intuitively driven by the four elements of expansion, connection, courage and authenticity. These drive the blend between head and heart and allow them to stay centred more than many others. Many great leaders unconsciously lead in flow, yet, importantly, when the situation is very complex, take the time to pause and consciously draw from these elements.
Why is it so hard to hold both sides? Are these things really opposed? I don’t believe so. But I do think society is too focussed on being on one side or the other, adopting extremes rather than integration.
Ferocious Warmth leadership seeks to come from a place of balance. Drawing from the facts, the evidence, the logic, while sustaining the trust, relationship building and empathy needed to lead people well and achieve outcomes and wellbeing. This is the power of yet.
Ferocious Warmth leaders are those who straddle the ‘yes and’ and the ‘yet’. This ability to blend seemingly contradictory approaches allows them to step into the power of Ferocious Warmth. They:
- are brave and courageous in the face of big challenges, and inspire their people to come with them on the journey.
- are lead learners who provide the right balance of high challenge and high support. People feel psychologically safe to raise and discuss ideas, differences of opinion and share personal challenges.
- draw from clear evidence base, as well as provide the culture that allows innovation to flourish.
- have strong conviction on their leadership beliefs and discuss them openly with others.
- work from a firm set of values and moral purpose.
- build trust through their ability to empathise and deeply listen, and surf the wave of logically and emotionally based discussion.
- inspire people to be their best self and connect into the vision and purpose of the organisation.
- build deep collaborative cultures and create leaders within their teams.
- lift expectations and give support to achieve the results and transformations required.
Cultivating our skills on both sides of ferocity and warmth is the work to do. How do you identify them?