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being a rock, or going with the flow
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Be a rock, or go with the flow

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Today’s article is about determination. It is one of the characteristics of successful people that I most admire, and also one of the characteristics of successful people that irritates me the most! In the context of leadership and management, I want to contrast it with flexibility, which is one of the characteristics of successful people that I most admire, and also one of the characteristics of successful people that irritates me the most!

In his book "Good to Great", Jim Collins discusses humility versus will, and the fact that what he defines as Level 5 Leaders manage to strike the balance between an absolute determination to get things done, and the humility to accept that they are not always right, that they need other people, and that they might need to adapt, change and be flexible.

I’ve come across a great number of people in my life, both personally and professionally, who are absolutely committed to something. That may be a point of view, a definition of a target, an analysis of a situation; it could be anything, but the common factor is that, at least outwardly, they are absolutely certain that they are right.

I’ve also come across people in the other camp – and the one that I more naturally fall into. This group may have points of view, targets, and have analysed things closely, but they express their positions with less certainty, and, on receiving a different perspective, will (appear at least) to weaken their own position very quickly.

To look at little more closely at these positions, I’m going to sub-divide them a little further:

I know I’m right

Into this category fall the most determined of people, but for a couple of reasons. There are those who will be there come what may, regardless of any evidence or persuasion to the contrary; and there are those who want to be there because it feels good, but who are open to persuasion.

I believe I’m right

Again, here we have a couple of sub-divisions. There is the group of people who are genuine in their belief, but who have an open mind to other possibilities; and there are those for whom believing in themselves is an important part of their personae, and who are actually trying to convince themselves as much as anyone else.

I might be wrong

The sub-divisions here are similar to those in the category above – the genuine people who have done the work, done the thinking, and consider themselves likely to be right, but who accept the possibility that there are other perspectives out there; and those who want to portray an image of open-minded flexibility, but who are actually just doing that to lull others into a false sense of security.

I believe I’m wrong

The next group are a reversal of the second in this list – split into either those who genuinely lack confidence, and those who want to hide in the shadows because that fits with who they think they are.

I am wrong

Finally on this continuum, we have the other extreme – the people who would rather do anything than express their own opinion – either because they genuinely don’t have one, or because they are fearful of having or expressing one.

My next article is going to delve a little deeper into these 8 categories. I don’t think that we consistently fall into one or the other, but that, under different circumstances, we can spot ourselves in a range of them. Perhaps take a look at the scale and notice when you might be falling into certain categories.


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