by Tim Dyke

Much conflict in organisations is due to polarities that people do not realise exist. Polarities are natural parts of systems just as breathing in and out are a natural part of our survival. Polarities can be effectively balanced with a better awareness of what is going on, how they interplay and how you can achieve just the right amount of both.

One polarity that CEOs need to actively manage is the tension between senior executives being part of the senior executive ‘team’ versus leading their own functional teams within the organisation. This polarity may be quite hidden from view and may lead to many frustrations for CEOs who can struggle to have senior executives in their senior executive team work primarily for the good of the whole organisation, and at the same time manage their own team, according to the organisational structure.

For some senior executives it is much easier to have a sense of belonging to the team they are leading rather than their peers in the senior executive team.

When facing this issue you may need some external help. One of our areas of specialised focus is working with polarities! Leading Well can work with your senior executive team to uncover and resolve the hidden polarities that may be impacting your organisational performance. You can contact Tim Dyke directly or the Leading Well team to find out more. 

What we know to be true about polarities:

  • Look for conflict, blocks and debates about seemingly unresolvable issues
  • Both ‘sides’ are needed.
  • Each ‘side’ in these conflicts has some truth – neither is completely correct and the other completely incorrect
  • Each side has both positive and negative – both are ‘double edged swords’
  • Both ‘sides’ have something to contribute and something that they must give up or let go of in order to move forward
  • Both sides must be prepared to acknowledge elements of the opposing side
  • Polarities cannot be resolved from within the frame that gave rise to the conflict
  • A broader perspective and a higher purpose are both needed to balance the polarity to bring this blocked and troubled system back into flow
  • In human systems, conflict can arise out of strongly held opposite beliefs leading to positions being held firmly with no compromise. On one side the opposite view cannot be held or even considered.

With acknowledgement of the pioneer work of Barry Johnson in this area, the key to balancing polarities include:

  • In the context of a higher purpose, how can we have the best of both polarities?
  • What are the important elements of each polarity?
  • How do we know when we are heading into negative elements of one or the other?
  • How do we bring ourselves back to a more balanced way of being?

This is a very different perspective, compared to choosing one (the right choice) versus the other (the wrong choice).

Tim Dyke, Leading Well

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