Article – Master the Seesaw Effect for Exponential Leadership Impact

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If you’ve ever ridden a seesaw, you know what happens when the weights on each side are very different—it’s not as fun and it takes more work to stay balanced! Well, there’s a leadership seesaw that occurs every day that I want to explore further with you.

Many years ago, my team and I developed the Leadership Attributes Model™ shown below. It’s stood the test of time as a simple graphic that encompasses every element of leadership. All the levels shown are important, but for most of our work over the past 21 years we have mainly focused on the Natural DNA Behaviors layer that shows Mission/Results and People/Relationships. Other than the Character layer at the bottom, this is the most critical area for your leadership development and success.

The Natural Tilt to One Side

Almost all our work relates directly to these two areas of Mission/Results and People/Relationships. To master this seesaw effect and be a great leader, you need to do both. Although doing both may sound easy, it isn’t—you see, most of us don’t enter this world with talents for both.

For 80% of the population, our DNA predisposes us to one or the other. Early on we called this your “bent”, but we now have termed this your leadership tilt. And you can see below how that works.

Based on years of assessment data, the numbers predict this tilt. The leadership challenge is built into our DNA because 40% of the population are born with natural talents (DNA Behaviors) for Mission/Results and 40% are born with natural talents for People/Relationships. And 20% that are born with some of both will default to Mission/Results when there is the slightest pressure to “get it done.”

The magnitude of the challenge to be recognized as a great leader was described in a recent Forbes magazine article which highlighted research from more than 60,000 employees who were asked about what it took to be a great leader…

  • If a leader was strong on getting results, the chance of that leader being perceived as a great leader was only 14%.
  • If a leader was strong on social skills, the chance of that leader being perceived as a great leader was only 12%.
  • However, for leaders who were strong in both results focus and in social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a great leader skyrocketed to 72%. Social skills are a great multiplier. 

What these statistics mean is that 80% of you reading this blog will need to adapt your behaviors to better balance your seesaw in order to develop great leadership.

“Getting results and nurturing relationships are equally important and together become the bottom line of all leadership development.” [Tweet This]

The good news is that we’re obviously on this journey together!

Modern Science Validation

Learning to do both will require commitment and intentionality because you’re fighting against your natural behaviors, which are hard-wired. Modern brain scans (FMRI) show that there are two networks in the brain. Neuroscientists tend to call them the task network and the social network.

These two networks closely parallel the concept we’re discussing here in the leadership tilt graphics. Dr. Richard Boyatzis, famous for his research and writing in Emotional Intelligence and Resonant Leadership, talks about this scientific phenomenon frequently in his teachings. Therefore, we encourage you to check out his videos on YouTube.

Research shows that the brain is not good at simultaneously doing both of what we call Mission and People.

“It takes commitment and intentionality to adapt and behave in unnatural ways to be a great leader.” [Tweet This]

A New Behavior Mindset

Along with my co-author, Hugh Massie, we’re just now completing a new book with many stories and examples of helping our clients gain a better balance. The bottom line is it requires self-awareness and a willingness to adapt to operate with new behaviors that are often uncomfortable and unnatural.

We have to struggle to adapt to new behaviors that are unnatural. Hugh and I have been wrestling to manage our struggles for many years. The good news is that a little change has a lot of leverage and can yield big results. How about you? Are you still growing and adapting? Maybe you don’t know for sure what your tilt is on the seesaw. If that’s the case, check out our free case study on leadership balance or take our free online assessment and learn more so you can join us on this journey. 


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