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Balancing Conviction and Openness


Disciplines > Leadership > Leadership articles > Balancing Conviction and Openness

The hard-charging visionary | The team leader | See also


There is a tricky balance that all leaders need to find. On the one hand they need the vision and conviction that gives them the determination to take a different path, even when others counsel against it. On the other hand they need to listen openly, taking intelligent notice of the views of others and changing course accordingly.

This is a balance that is easy to get wrong yet where any position can work or fail, depending on the circumstance and people involved. 

The hard-charging visionary

At one extreme in this scale is the hard-charging visionary who is totally convinced that they alone know the right way. Their passion is infectious and they gather a band of followers who either buy into the vision or who lack conviction themselves and so travel in hope.

Charging across the desert to the new frontier, they offer the delights of promised lands in exchange for the exhausting hardship of getting there. Their energy is the fuel that keeps the wagon rolling and obstacles are seen as that : irritations that delay progress which are to be surmounted or cast aside with urgency.

Following such a leader can be exhilarating and it can exhausting, and those who cannot stay the course are cast aside as nothing is permitted to delay progress. Likewise challenge is unwelcome, both for the delay and for the confusion is causes. The hard-charging leader is single-minded in their vision and will not waver or diver from their course.

This style of leadership thus succeeds if sufficient followers stay the course and if the leader's vision was accurate. It is a difficult role, particularly for long journeys where followers may desert, rebel or mutiny in places and times where they cannot be replaced and where there is no support available. Success, however, can be very significant as their speed gives sole occupancy of the new lands for a long time, with commensurate reward.

The team leader

At the other end of the scale is a leader who may have no ideas of their own, but who's genius lies in drawing the vision out from others and building a cohesive team to deliver the vision.

They have significant skills in listening and drawing out key knowledge and ideas fron others and then synthesizing these into something that everyone can accept. Done well, this is less a compromise and more a synergy that combines the best of all ideas. They then sell this back to everyone and hence bind them around the shared purpose.

Ongoing, they continue to engage and encourage the team, individually and collectively, in implementation. Although they are the catalyst, the energy for action come mostly from the team, who may well surprise themselves in what is achieved.

Their lower ego needs means they are happy to promote the success of others and the extent of their leadership may well not be recognized outside the team.


There is no one right way in this balance and the styles described are extremes in a spectrum of possible approaches to leadership.


See also

Michigan Leadership Studies, Ohio State Leadership Studies, The Managerial Grid

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