To summarize Chapter 4 (my words, Snyder’s concept):
Life is full of change, which leads to tension, which we experience as struggle.
Learning how to deal with the tension positively and specifically is essential.
Makes sense to me … however, this is just the start.
Snyder goes on to dissect this tension dynamic and comes up with four distinct “tension points”, which we encounter as struggle. Here’s a short description of each with some of my thoughts thrown in.
Tensions of Tradition …
“… the implications of breaking with patterns from which they and others have become accustomed .. when some new element is introduced to the environment …”
A classic point of contention in many organizations, I would guess. This is where the differences between the function of leading and the function of managing seem to be most stark and obvious.
While change is inevitable, how we approach the change process, especially the communication part, is critical and many challenges have grown from what appeared to be a simple change from how we do it now to how we will do it into the future.
Tensions of Relationships …
When we cannot or do not build “… the type of respectful and trusting relationship that’s needed to endure the stress a crisis can bring.”
Sometimes it’s personal …
We have all experienced what Snyder describes as “positive energy” which comes from healthy relationships. We have also experienced the toxic atmosphere that is present when trust and respect is lacking in a relationship or between groups.
Relationships always exist along a continuum …
Our movement should always be toward the middle, where relationships are based on fact and reality, unholy alliances and holy wars are both absent, and people act from that base of trust and respect, because they expect and experience reciprocal behavior from their colleagues.
Tensions of Aspiration …
“… arise as an organization mobilizes around a dream or vision for the future.”
Healthy organizations and leaders dream and make plans to change, to thrive, and to grow.
We just don’t always agree within the key groups or individuals about the details of when, where, what, who, how, and why.
This type of tension often goes hand-in-hand with tension arising from tradition and relationships. When we look toward the future, we are implicitly and often also explicitly questioning the past, our heritage, our tradition.
Change is difficult enough when everyone is in agreement and working within an environment of trust. Change is almost impossible when that trust is not present between individuals.
Tensions of Identity …
“ … issues surrounding their (leaders) values, integrity, and authenticity.”
Snyder devotes the most time to this tension point and rightfully so. Here is where things become intensely personal and move from the organizational to the individual.
When we struggle with tradition, we are engaging the past.
When we struggle with relationships, we are engaging (or not) with other people.
When we struggle with aspirations, we are engaging with the group dreams and hope.
When we struggle with identity, we are engaging with ourselves, in our deepest and sometimes most difficult to know places.
Snyder talks about three general resolutions to this tension: through the leader developing a new understanding of the situation, through a shift in the leaders’ identity, and finally with the leader deciding the situation is “no longer tenable”. Each resolution has some validity and we are charged with determining which is the best resolution for a specific situation.
“Resolving tensions of identity is central to navigating through struggle …”
… and so saying, Snyder devotes much of his book to helping us understand and prepare to do exactly this.
In Closing …
I hope this piques your interest in Leadership and the Art of Struggle as a valuable resource for your leadership journey.
As with anything, knowing specifically what we are experiencing allows us to better understand why we are experiencing that specific tension.
In turn, this leads us to more targeted and more effective responses to reduce or even eliminate that tension, as we move through the struggle.
Steven Snyder is performing a valuable service by drawing our attention to these distinct sources of tension. We have experienced them all, I would bet, but Snyder gives us a useful framework within which to deal with the tensions of our work.
Using a fascinating story about a young man who experienced all of these tensions as he tried to lead a national theater organization, Snyder also provides us with some valuable guidance on how to successfully navigate each point … but you really need to read the book to learn that part.
Listing and analyzing my tension points in the Heartland ….
Disclaimer: As is often the case, I received a copy of Leadership and the Art of Struggle for review prior to its launch during the week of March 11, 2013. I am free to like or dislike the book. I happen to really like this high quality publication. As is often the case, I plan to purchase several copies to share with some folks who need to hear Steven Snyder’s message.
Steven Snyder, Ph.D., is the founder of the Snyder Leadership Group, an organizational consulting firm. An innovator in thought leadership, Snyder has developed the breakthrough concepts introduced in Leadership and the Art of Struggle, based on years of leadership studies, intensive research, and data derived from extensive interviews with real-world executives from major corporations. He currently lives with his family in the Minneapolis area, where he remains actively engaged in philanthropy and community service.
- Leadership and The Art of Struggle … (strategiclearner.wordpress.com)
- A Nice Combination … (strategiclearner.wordpress.com)
- Enemies of Adaptive Energy and An Antidote (martinamcgowan.com)
- Why struggle at work is good for your career (cnn.com)
- Tension is King and Other Rules (bobbimcgowan.wordpress.com)