In analyzing his leaders, who were performing similar functions, he discovered that some were hitting it out of the ballpark (these leaders have “it”) while others weren’t. He and his leadership team then came up with eight pairs of leadership traits. His most successful leaders possessed one or more of these traits. And not only did they possess a trait, but they were an extreme. Groeschel’s team defined these as a Leadership Paradox (contradictory leadership qualities that, together, create a synergy of undeniable leadership impact). He went on to say that he doesn’t want well-rounded leaders; he wants leaders who are living in the extremes.
Here are the eight pairs Groeschel identified in his best leaders:
- Confident, but Humble — These leaders are confident, but not cocky. They’re a magnet to their followers because of their confidence. I can think of a leader I follow who displayed these traits. When I met him, he was an American missionary based in Quito, Ecuador. At the time, there was much government unrest as well as active volcanoes, to name a couple of issues that interfered with his work. Still, he was confident in his mission to help the poor, many of whom lived in the dumps of Quito. I often thought he was like Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett — fearless. However, occasionally when he would be describing all the needs (food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, etc.) of so many of the people, he would spontaneously start sobbing. He knew that he — and we — couldn’t help everyone. He was confident but humble, too.
- Driven, but Healthy — We all know leaders who ignore their health, their team’s health, and, sadly, their family’s health.
- Focused, but Flexible — For this one, Groeschel described how his team decides what to focus on, according to four tiers: 1) Absolutely mission critical; 2) Very important and strategic, but not critical; 3) Meaningful, but not essential; 4) Externally initiated and often lower priority. He would say that we’re often spending time with Tier 3 and 4 issues at the expense of Tier 1 and 2.The essence of great leadership is choosing what not to do!
- Optimistic, but Realistic — My mentor, Ken Kunkel, is a big dreamer and a can-do kind of guy, but he also has his feet on the ground.
- Direct, but Care About People (Kind) — This may describe me. I try to be clear and unambiguous, but to some people I’m too direct. That being said, when I was first assessed by Plante Moran, the psychologist said my profile was that of a social worker.
- Empowering, but Controlling — These leaders give their team lots of rope, but once in a while they need to firmly set the direction or goal.
- Urgent, but Patient — You know people who get it done now. But great leaders know when to wait.
- Frugal, but Abundant — I can relate to this one. When I was in charge of Plante Moran’s Southfield office, I wouldn’t approve new carpeting for the building — but at the same time, I committed the firm to leasing an office and hiring professionals in Shanghai, China, even though I didn’t know for sure what they would do.
Who knows if Groeschel’s list is correct? Whether it is or not, I believe it’s a great checklist for leaders to use to help them determine whether they have a high-level leader(s) who possesses each Leadership Paradox trait. I would encourage you to do a self-assessment of your company.