Polarity: The New Balancing Act

Polarity is “the state of having two opposite or contradictory tendencies, opinions, or aspects.” Republican versus Democrat. Baby Boomer versus Millennial. Management versus employees.

The past several years have created a climate where we seem to search for and cling to differences and separations rather than looking for compromises or commonalities. This “either/or” thinking often creates destructive competition and a waste of valuable resources (time, money, energy). However, what we frequently forget is that the combination of the two poles is where the energy happens. This is known as Polarity Thinking–when two seemingly opposing values or views complement one another in a balanced way.

In a recent edition of Training Magazine, Tony O’Driscoll identified the power of mid-level managers to act as catalysts balancing the polarity of strategy versus execution as well as change versus people. The idea is that the energy of the poles is managed by leading from the middle of the polarity. In the struggle of strategy versus execution, today’s mid-level managers can harness the power and importance of both by not only communicating the top-down strategies, but by actively directing a bottom-up participatory approach to generating ideas for implementation. In the dynamic of managing the change versus the people, mid-level managers can manage the polarity by creating a safe environment for innovation and the learning of new skills while directing outcomes toward the direction of new initiatives. It’s this kind of leadership and thinking—harnessing the best energy of both poles—that will differentiate our next generation of leaders.