CCL has been studying leaders and their development for 40 years. Many of our practices have become “tried-and-true” ways to develop leaders and leadership. Here, we highlight ideas, strategies and tactics that we have developed and refined over many years and by working with many thousands of clients.

Can You Handle the Tension of Opposites?

Few of us are prepared to lead in the context of significant, unrelenting change. To be effective during times of transition, leaders must be comfortable with the tension of opposites.

Authors Kerry Bunker and Michael Wakefield have studied what it takes to lead in times of intense change. In the recent edition of The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development and in their book Leading with Authenticity in Times of Transition, Bunker and Wakefield describe 12 competencies leaders need to develop and balance.

  1. Catalyzing change is championing an initiative or significant change, consistently promoting the cause and encouraging others to get on board.
  2. Coping with transition is about recognizing and addressing the personal and emotional elements of change. It includes being in touch with your own emotions and reactions.
  3. Sense of urgency involves taking action when necessary to keep things rolling. A leader who has a strong sense of urgency moves fast on issues and accelerates the pace of change for everyone.
  4. Realistic patience requires knowing when and how to slow the pace down to allow time and space for people to cope and adapt.
  5. Being tough denotes the ability to make difficult decisions about issues and people with little hesitation or second-guessing.
  6. Being empathetic involves taking others’ perspectives into account when making decisions and taking action.
  7. Optimism is the ability to see the positive potential of any challenge and to convey that optimism to others.
  8. Realism and openness involves a willingness to be candid and clear about a situation and prospects for the future. It includes speaking the truth and admitting personal mistakes and foibles.
  9. Self-reliance involves a willingness to take a lead role or even to do something yourself when necessary. A leader who is self-reliant has a great deal of confidence and is willing to step up and tackle most new challenges.
  10. Trusting others means being comfortable with allowing others to do their part of a task or project. It includes being open to others for input and support.
  11. Capitalizing on strengths entails knowing your strengths and attributes and confidently applying them to tackle new situations and circumstances.
  12. Going against the grain involves a willingness to learn and try new things — to get out of your comfort zone — even when the process is difficult or painful.

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