Leadership in Business: The Yin and Yang of Business Leadership


In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin or yang refers to how seemingly contradictory or opposing forces are actually complementary, interconnected and interdependent in natural world. They are complementary forces which interact to create a dynamic structure in which the total is greater than the parts. You can also cultivate seemingly contradictory traits in leadership. By balancing the act of using the right trait at the right time, you can be both effective and efficient.

Yoga practice involves the teacher asking the students to do a counter pose to relieve the tissues after they have held a posture for too long. Doing so will help us achieve balance and harmony within our bodies. This is true for leadership. There are a few things we can do to ensure that the business is effective and efficient. What I called the Yin and Yang to Brandon Long Marketing leadership.

1. The Yin and Yang Of Listening vs Articulating

As I was in my MBA class, the professor was the first to remind us to “come out from our Asian culture” and be assertive. His goal was to make class more assertive, which meant that students should speak up and participate actively in class. One of his tactics was to encourage us to be the first one to speak in meetings. Outspokenness was a way to project confidence and assertiveness. Charismatic leadership can be defined as being articulate and outspoken. Leaders must have the ability to project a vision so clear that their team can take the next step in the right direction.

You must balance your ability to listen with your art of speaking and writing. It is apparent that the education system we have has developed excellent presentation skills, but not enough active listening skills. As one rises up the corporate ladder listening skills become more critical. Without the ability to listen, people will not share their opinions. This creates a community of doers. They will do what you tell them, but will not share their thoughts with you if they feel that you are losing your ears. We were all aware that crowdsourcing is a hot topic in the age of social media. And we agreed that collective wisdom beats individual intellect. A great leader must be able listen and discern the best ideas.

2. The Yin and Yang in Group Collaboration vs Individual Creation

We’re all familiar with brainstorming and cross-group task teams. These are great ways for teams to work together and form social glue, which will help them align their different units towards one goal. This is a great way to get new ideas.

Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts and a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, discussed how collaboration can destroy creativity. She explained that psychologists have provided three reasons for group brainstorming’s failure:

1. Social Loafing refers to a situation where individuals are more inclined to be passive and let others do all the work

2. Production blocking means that only one person can communicate or create an idea at a time, and the rest are obliged to listen passively.

3. Evaluation anxiety, where one is afraid to be foolish in front of others.

Brainstorming creates a sense of belonging and a greater level of ownership for the ideas.

Study after study has shown that working alone is better for generating innovative ideas. If you think back to your own experience, the best place to get an idea was in your “lone time”; when you took a walk in a park, had supper, or sat at the beach.

When we understand our goal, we can apply the Yin/Yang approach to achieving it. You are looking for the next breakthrough product idea? Give your programmers and researchers a peaceful environment where they can work without distractions. Are you looking for a team that is aligned in order to achieve the great idea together? Take part in the cross-team brainstorming session to discuss details.

3. The Yin to Deep Thinking through vs. Fast Decision-making

Leaders today are faced with the pressure to quickly make decisions in an online world where everything can be found online. Unfortunately, many leaders have fallen for this trap. Many leaders are tempted to quickly make decisions in order to be perceived as being decisive, responsive and confident. In some cases, it is important to think deeply. It might be wise to stop and take the time to really think about the situation before you make the decision. The question is, have we really taken the onion down to its core? Is the problem being solved? Did we dig deep enough to find the root cause of the problem before deciding on the steps to take? Are we listening to our team and their analysis before making a final decision?

It is possible to balance the Yin & Yang of business leadership and have a healthy business that thrives in the ever-changing business world. We can find more Yin and Yang characteristics that we can combine that serve to remind us of the “counterposes” that we need in order to create a healthy organization. What are some important Yin and Yang characteristics that business leaders can consider?

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