Follow Your Natural Tendency At Your Peril
It’s not that tender is more effective than tough, or that tough is more effective than tender…
It’s that some leaders automatically take a tough stance—you know, those firm leaders whose decisions are based on a detached logic, who take a no-compromise position, whose judgment disregards sentiment or feelings.
And other leaders automatically take a tender stance—those supportive, encouraging, caring leaders who put a lot of weight on the relationship, who genuinely consider others and the impact that their judgment will have on the people involved, even disregarding the logic of the situation.
We all have a natural tendency—and natural tendencies so often get us into trouble!
Stop—Check The Context Before You Take Action
Tough is good, sometimes. And tender is good sometimes. It depends on the situation. Some leaders have an instinctive awareness of when to be tough and when to be tender.
And some leaders, particularly those who are less gentle, will benefit from this model that considers the frequency and the impact of the situation…
An infrequent incident that has a low impact definitely calls for a tender approach. On the other hand, a tougher stance is called for when the incident occurs frequently and has a high impact:
High Frequency / Low Impact
Balance tenderness with toughness
High Frequency / High Impact
A tough stance is recommended
Low Frequency / Low Impact
A tender stance is recommended
Low Frequency / High Impact
Balance toughness with tenderness
So exactly which situations call for a tough stance? Frequent breaches of safety, security and financial controls? Regularly ignoring company policy and receiving inappropriate gifts from suppliers?
What situations call for a tender stance? Coaching a team member to develop their skills in an area that’s new to them? A team member whose self-assurance has been shaky lately? Missing an important client meeting without warning because of a serious family illness?
And less frequent or less impactful situations call for a blend of tough and tender—a balance of the two.
Tough versus tender? It depends on the situation.
By the way, it’s not so much the words you use that determine whether your approach is perceived as being tough or tender. It’s your overriding intention and your underlying attitude that’ll be the primary determinant of how your message is received.
He Who Is The Most Flexible Wins!
Leaders who’re able to flex to the situation and be tough when tough-mindedness is best, and be tender when tender-heartedness is best—ARE the best!
- Which circumstances are you exposed to that would benefit from more of the opposite behaviour, the one that doesn’t come as naturally for you?
- What are the likely costs (to you, the other person, your organisation) of not using that less natural behaviour?
- And the crucial question: What would you need to do to adopt the opposite, less-natural behaviour in those circumstances?
Your Leadership Call to Action
Will you test-drive this thinking? You CAN actually change your behaviours and create more impressive results. Your behaviour isn’t preordained .
What will you do so that you’re always tough enough to forge results—yet tender enough to take care of the people involved?
Will you make certain your behaviour is always hugely appropriate to the circumstance?
With a clear intention, I know you can increase your flexibility!
Give me a yell if you have comments, questions or want support, won’t you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.