How many great bosses have you had in your career?   I’d bet many of us can count them on one hand (and maybe not use all of your fingers on that hand).  Why?  Why are there so few great leaders?  I’d agree with the premise below – – the job has so many contradictory demands that must be kept in balance…

Douglas MacArthur

“…Douglas MacArthur…unquestionably the most gifted man-at-arms this nation has produced, was no unidimensional soul.  He was a great thundering paradox of man, noble, and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, most ridiculous, and most sublime…Flamboyant, impervious, and apocalyptic…For every MacArthur strength there was a corresponding MacArthur weakness.

…We contend that all of us, executives included, are a little like MacArthur.  We are contradictory, paradoxical, and miscellaneous jumbles of vices and virtures.  And this is why balance is so basic.  Every strength can also turn out to be a weakness, and great strengths or weaknesses can grow unjustifiably overblown.  The issue is the particular combination of strengths and weaknesses a person brings to a particular situation.  For executives, these balances often appear to be basic contradictions, surfaced by contradictory demands on the job:

…So balance is not a scorecard of lessons, with two checked in every column.  Balance is not something attained all at once and then owned forever.  As we mean it, balance reflects fundamental tensions that, over the years, get out of whack.  When something gets unbalanced, we have to learn in order to get it back under control.”

I’m grateful to David Kanigan for alerting me to this thought provoking piece.  I have recently come across his BlogLead.Learn.Live.”  and recommend it highly.

Orginal Sources: “The Lessons of Experience: How Successful Executives Develop On the Job.”  By McCall, Lombardo, and Morrison

Photo:  US Naval Historical Centre