Finding Harmony Amid Contradictions

Dealing with ambiguities comfortably and without compromising your core principles

If you’re a senior leader or entrepreneur who has already scaled, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there and done that.

If you don’t want to advance your career and leadership, forget about it. If you’re a happy entrepreneur with a small boutique lifestyle business, don’t bother with what I’m about to say. You won’t find yourself dealing with the scenarios I’m going to share that frequently.

However, if you aspire to climb the corporate ladder and become an executive, you need to know one of the secrets of successful executive leadership. If you desire to scale, you should be aware of what awaits you as you go big and join the big leagues.

Swimming among sharks while staying alive

Leading from a high altitude with high frequency isn’t a red-carpet walk. You’ll be, as the saying goes, ‘Swimming Among the Sharks.’

You don’t want to be eaten alive when you swim among sharks.

One of the competencies that enables you to swim among sharks without being eaten alive is the ability to handle contradictions calmly and gracefully. In such an intense and competitive environment:

  • Things aren’t always straightforward.
  • Lines aren’t drawn, and even if they are, they may not be clear enough.
  • Boundaries aren’t well marked; they’re blurred, making you constantly wonder whether you have crossed over the side you don’t want to be.

Operating in such a high-stakes atmosphere requires building immunity and resilience. Otherwise, you will be:

  1. Anxious,
  2. Frustrated,
  3. Overwhelmed,
  4. Confused,
  5. Paralyzed,
  6. And ultimately, drop the ball when the going gets tough…

Things are murky and full of grey areas

On the contrary, things are straightforward when you are at the bottom of the hierarchy. When flying at a lower frequency, there are no grey areas.

Unfortunately, the more you advance, the more things are murky. You’re not dealing with Right or Wrong choices alone. Any ethical person will choose Right every time without thinking twice.

The more you advance in your career, leadership, and entrepreneurship, the more you struggle to choose between two or more Rights. Choosing one over the others isn’t that easy and simple, to say the least…

The stakes are always high

At the C-suit level, the stake is always high. You won’t always feel comfortable. Sometimes, you may even feel like you’re sleeping on a tree, constantly waking without enjoying deep sleep…

Every decision you make can have dire consequences against:

  • You,
  • Your Family,
  • Your Organization, and
  • Many Lives.

You’ve little room for error. You’re walking a very tightrope between two skyscrapers. You’re dealing with delicate lines consistently.

  1. If living in such a seemingly dreadful environment stresses you out and you don’t have the stomach for it, forget about it.
  2. If you care more about balance and being liked by everyone, walk away.
  3. If you are afraid of failing, making mistakes, and pissing off some people, run away.

I’m not scaring you here.

  • I’m here to confirm if you have already found yourself dealing with contradictions and wondering whether what is happening is normal.
  • I’m also here to alarm and immunize you ahead of time if you have never been there and aspire to get there quickly.

It isn’t rocket science; you too, can find harmony amid contradictions

That said, finding harmony amid contradictions isn’t rocket science. It isn’t only for a few special people. You can also join these few elites.

I can’t give you the entire map of how to get there in this short blog. Nonetheless, let me share one tip: Know your non-negotiables well.

I like what Roy Disney, Walt E. Disney’s brother, said: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

On this voyage to:

  1. Stand for a higher purpose,
  2. Have a significant impact, and
  3. Serve a larger number of people with world-class leadership excellence, your values can become your barometer and compass.

Your non-negotiables will guide you as you:

  • Swim Among Sharks,
  • Walk very tight ropes, and
  • Deal with delicate lines…

If you’re clear about your own and your organization’s core values:

  1. It becomes much easier to make tough decisions with limited data and time.
  2. You become focused amid chaos.
  3. You deal with seemingly contradictory issues without diluting your brand and dropping what you stand for.
  4. You move forward with confidence in the midst of uncertainty.
  5. And more…

A rookie vs. a seasoned leader

Before we close, let me make it practical using two hypothetical leaders: a rookie and a seasoned leader.

The rookie may have core values, but all of his values are likely ‘harmonious.’ For instance, if he embraces empathy, he will unlikely have accountability as another value, or vice versa.

If he values empathy, he probably struggles to hold people accountable. He appears to be a pushover; some may take advantage of that. Or, if he embraces accountability, he probably drives people hard, causing many to burn out and even quit. As you can imagine, the rookie won’t be a candidate to lead at the executive level. Even if he gets into the room with the seasoned, he won’t be tolerated for long.

On the other hand, a seasoned leader not only has seemingly contradictory values but also puts her values in order of priority. She knows that some of her values may clash in certain situations. Therefore, she must be clear about which values override which ones and when.

Using the same example, let’s say that this executive leader has empathy and accountability as competing values. She can employ empathy and also make others accountable at the same time. She knows when and with whom to enforce which value. She won’t appear as a pushover nor neglect the well-being of her people. She embraces and demonstrates a commitment to both her seemingly contradictory values to serve the greater good.

In conclusion, executive leadership comes with some perks and challenges. One of the challenges is dealing with so many complex, non-linear, and contradictory issues on a consistent basis. For the untrained and less experienced, leading in such a seemingly rough atmosphere is daunting, to say the least. However, like everything else, effective executive leadership can be learned. Regardless of its challenges, if one develops the right mindset and key executive leadership competencies, one will survive and thrive.

And we’re here to support you on this exciting and rewarding journey.

  • Let’s work together one-on-one if you’re an aspiring executive or small business owner who would like to scale and go big.
  • If you have new executives and aspiring middle leaders who desire to become the next executives, let’s create a program that empowers them to make a smooth transition and excel at their new executive roles from the get-go.