Leaders often face dilemmas – situations wherein there is no clear solution, no definitive right or wrong answer. It becomes easy to bounce between what can be defined as opposing alternatives. For example, do we set team or individual goals? Do we want stability or change? Do we give priority to task and action or process and reflection? Should we centralize or decentralize?  Stuck in the horns of a dilemma, the “you-can’t-win-for-losing” mentality can take hold.

To effectively manage dilemmas, instead of focusing on one dimension of the situation as the problem and the other as the solution, which represents either/or thinking, practice seeing, understanding and valuing both sides of the matter. Using both/and thinking will facilitate clearer identification of the upsides and downside of both horns of the dilemma, while enabling you to see the limitations of each and figure out how to avoid them.

For more, read Barry Johnson’s book, Polarity Management.

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