The Paradox of Leadership

The Paradox of Leadership

The Paradox of Leadership

I’ve said it before, leadership is one of the trickiest words in the English language to fully understand. In fact some would argue that you never really can understand it all. I consider myself one of those “some”. Why? Well, today’s post will outline the paradox of leadership. I will also give you some tips on how to navigate through it. Let’s dig in!

The Paradox

You are simultaneously the most important factor and not the most important factor in your organization! Let that sink in just a second, you are simultaneously the most important factor and not the most important factor in your organization. You are probably already asking yourself, “How can I be both the most and not the most?” Well, we will explore that by breaking down both sides.

You Are The Most Important Factor

Leaders and their leadership are the most important factor in an organizations success. The tone they set, the examples they display, and the culture they foster are all critical elements that define success or failure. Their guidance can be the difference between sustainability and decay.

This is a responsibility you must take seriously. Not only do your teammates depend on you and your guidance but so do their families. For every team member you have you should view them as at least 2-4 people once you include families into the mix. That makes you and your skills the most important factor in your organization.

Your Team Is The Most Important Factor

No amount of leadership will make up for bad and under-performing teams. High performing and innovative team members are the most important factor in an organization’s success. True, it is your responsibility to pick the right people and this makes you one of the most important factors again but after that it is up to those people to take initiative and ownership of the organization to keep her successful. These teams and their performance represent the reputation of the organization. From the front desk receptionist to the CEO, bad team members contribute to bad reputations and good team members contribute to good reputations.

Furthermore, you will not be around forever. The people you bring in are the future of the organization. In order to build a strong, successful, and legacy generating organization the people you bring in must be of the highest quality and by in to the mission completely.

Balancing The Paradox

Balancing out these factors requires a high level of maturity, unselfishness, and willingness to see others succeed. The leader must balance when to lead with when to follow and do it so seamlessly that nearly nobody notices. This paradox is a big reason why two of the principles even exist, know yourself and know your team. Mastering these is the only way to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to make the right choices.

It also helps to accept this paradox and remember you can do nothing about it. If you truly believe that you are simultaneously the most important and not the most important factor to your organization you become more comfortable transitioning between the two roles. When it comes your time to be important you will know it is true and when it is your time to empower and step back you will also know that it is true.


This paradox has existed since man began forming tribes. At times we need a leader to make all the decisions and other times we need it to be a team effort. Every time we have gone astray it is because we did not accept and honor this simple fact. Dictatorships occur because the team is never the most important and anarchy rules when there is not a leader that is most important.