I blame my parents. It’s true, I blame them for some of my biggest leadership struggles. And I bet you have a similar story.
Now hear me out. I was raised in a loving home, and they certainly had my best interest in mind, as I’m sure yours did. But it all started before my first birthday.
They taught me that things were “safe” or “unsafe.” Do this. Don’t touch that. In elementary school it was about getting “correct” or “incorrect” answers. As a teenager I was learning what decisions made a “good” or “bad” person.
Throughout life, I learned that for every situation, there is a right and wrong answer. Things are EITHER right OR wrong.
By the time I was a young adult, I was 100% clear that picking the RIGHT answer meant that I was safe, correct, and good.
But then life got complicated. Can you relate?
The Limitations of the Either/Or Mindset
Let’s use my sports career as an example. After failing to make the basketball team year after year, I continued to go to tryouts, adhering to the simple truth that I was taught by my parents: “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”
However, confusion set in when the coach approached me with bad news after the tryout and kindly offered me a conflicting point of view, “Don’t beat a dead horse.”
Over time, I began to see that this Either/Or mindset I had been indoctrinated with early in life had its limitations.
It was great and necessary when I was dealing with facts, formulas, policies, and procedures. However, it sure was working against me when I was dealing with complex situations that could be seen from more than one point of view.
My Either/Or mindset was necessary and helpful, but it was incomplete. I realized if I was going to thrive as a leader, a teammate, a father, a husband, and a friend, I had to embrace a Both/And mindset.
The Power of the And/Or Mindset
This meant that I had to start to get comfortable with healthy tension and use the word “AND” more than the word “BUT.” Instead of aligning and spending time with people who always affirmed my point of view, I needed to seek out people with diverse perspectives and approaches.
And my world was forever changed.
It certainly has more conflict and discomfort now, but it’s the kind of conflict that results in better and more informed decisions and the kind of discomfort that results in growth.
The great news is that Both/And leadership can be learned, and every step you take in this direction is a step toward leadership development, team effectiveness, and organizational success.
How about you?
- Is your leadership stuck?
- Are you using the Either/Or mindset to deal with complex leadership issues?
- Are you known for saying the word “but” more than the word “and?”
- Do you make healthy conflict and diverse points of view safe and celebrated in your team?
- Are you a Both/And leader?
It’s time to let go of the incomplete Either/Or mindset and learn to lead with AND.
Tim Arnold has spent over two decades helping leaders manage complexity, increase resilience, and deliver results. Past clients have included the United Nations, Compassion International, Royal Bank of Canada, Allstate Insurance, and Siemens.
His work focuses on helping leaders unleash the superpower of Both/And thinking in an Either/Or world — a concept explored in his forthcoming book Lead with AND: The Secret to Resilience and Results in a Polarized World, coming February 2022.
Interested in learning more about Tim and what he can bring to your next event as a keynote speaker? Email us at [email protected].