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Dave Jensen on Leadership – Part II How to Stretch When You Are Pulled

Leaders often face opposing demands, which require them to stretch and embrace a paradoxical approach to leadership. Leadership, simply defined as unleashing the energy of others toward worthy goals, is an ongoing process. It involves the four styles of leadership: rational (focus on objectives and details), visionary (strategic thinking and inspiration), empowering (engaging and creating teamwork), and commanding (making hard decisions and helping overcome setbacks). These styles, combined in the Expansive Leadership Model (ZLM), allow leaders to address task and people dimensions effectively. By dynamically juggling these styles, leaders can navigate conflicting demands and lead with balance.


Over the last two decades, I’ve had the extraordinary pleasure of researching, teaching, consulting with leaders, and coaching them at all levels of the organization. One theme has become really clear: leaders, perhaps like you, are being stretched by so many demands. That’s why I’m here today, to talk to you about how to stretch when you’re pulled by opposing demands. How often do you find yourself being pulled this way and that way at the same time? That’s what we’re here to discuss, and we’ll approach this issue with two topics in mind. First, we’ll delve into what leadership means in a very practical way so that you can use the definition throughout your day. The second topic is how to apply a paradoxical process to help you lead and manage these competing demands.

Now, let’s talk about the definition of leadership. Have you ever considered it? What does leadership mean to you, and what words come to mind? Leadership may seem like a complicated topic, but it’s actually straightforward. Many definitions exist, but the one leaders find most practical is this: Leadership is the process of unleashing the energy of others towards worthy goals. Consider this: Have you ever thought about leadership as a process? If so, what is your process, your method for consistently leading well? Now, about unleashing the energy of others – have you considered leadership from the perspective of energy? Your role as a leader is to tap into this energy, motivating people from the inside out and directing them towards an inspiring, compelling vision of the future – what we mean by worthy goals. This is practical throughout the day. Consider asking yourself frequently, “How well am I unleashing the energy of others towards worthy goals?” Think about some of your favorite leaders – didn’t they unleash the energy of others towards worthy goals? That’s your job too.

Now, how do you go about doing that? That’s the next part of our presentation, where we apply a paradoxical process. What is a paradox? It’s not two physicians; rather, from a leadership perspective, a paradox is when two opposing issues pull you in opposite directions simultaneously – like rubber band issues. If you were accomplishing both, you would need to stretch. The most effective leaders and successful organizations demonstrate that they are stretching when pulled by competing demands and goals. Here’s how you can do it from a leadership perspective, using the four styles of leadership.

The first style is the rational style, akin to the Sergeant Joe Friday approach to leadership – “Just the facts, ma’am.” This is the left-brain, logical side where we define objectives, expectations, and stay in touch with our environment. On the opposite side, we have the visionary style, where we create strategic plans, inspire towards long-term goals, and imagine a compelling future. The third style is the empowering side, focusing on engaging others, creating teamwork, and being of service to team members. Lastly, the commanding style involves making difficult decisions, handling hard choices, and helping people overcome setbacks.

Now, how do these styles help us in today’s paradoxical environment? We integrate them into a model called the ZLM – the Expansive Leadership Model. This model combines the rational and visionary, along with the empowering and commanding styles in an interdependent yet opposing structure. It’s about knowing the big picture and working towards it, addressing both the task dimension (small and big tasks) and the people side (inquiry, advocacy, service, and assertiveness). Remember, we need to be both leaders and managers, often feeling like a stretch, and we don’t have to choose one. We stretch when we’re pulled by these opposing demands. So, keep all four styles in front of you, dynamically juggling them throughout the day. By doing so, you’ll be stretching when pulled by opposing demands. I invite you to embrace this stretching process and apply all these styles, and we’ll see you next time.


This insightful video delves into essential survival skills for navigating today’s workplace challenges. Covering skills seven to ten, it emphasizes the importance of developing courage to face challenges (symbolized by “tigers”), mastering cross-functional teamwork, adapting to rapid change, and finding purpose beyond routine tasks. The author encourages readers to view their work as contributing to a larger purpose, urging them to quit a mundane job and discover work that aligns with personal passions and makes a meaningful impact. With a focus on personal development, organizational growth, and effective teamwork, the video provides practical advice for thriving in the dynamic modern workplace.

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