We each long for certainty – the security of simple answers. What, for example, are the specific qualities that make us more likely to be successful? Companies spend millions of dollars trying to define the key competencies for specific jobs. Researchers seek to pinpoint the qualities that distinguish top performers from everyone else. The more time I spend working with leaders at other companies, and leading a company of my own, the more convinced I’ve become that the paradoxical key to great performance – and leadership – is the capacity to embrace opposites. Stoic philosophers referred to this as the mutual entailment of the virtues. No virtue, they argued, is a virtue by itself. Even the noblest virtues, standing alone, have their limits. Honesty in the absence of compassion becomes cruelty. Tenacity unmediated by flexibility congeals into rigidity. Courage without prudence is recklessness. As Gregory Bateson put it: “There is always an optimal value beyond which anything is toxic, no matter what: oxygen, sleep, psychotherapy, philosophy.” Instead, operate best when we embrace our opposites in each of the four key dimensions of our lives: Read complete article.
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