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Where Are All The Nonpolar Leaders?

Solutions to impasses or sticking points generally come by learning how to spot and mediate third force, which is present in every situation but generally hidden. —Cynthia Bourgeault

Today our political, business, media, and religious leaders increasingly reflect polarity in their thinking and acting. Polarity is the quality or state of being as different as possible. Or, two opposing yet related realities.

Polar leadership sees things in extremes, labeling them as black/white, right/wrong, yes/no, either/or, win/lose, my way or the highway. All too frequently today’s polar minded leaders react to disagreement with judgement and bullying, express an intolerance for any alternative views, and all too often label one as good and the other as bad.

Nonpolar leaders have a certain capacity to think beyond polarities and embrace other alternatives. They have a tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to hold tensions, embrace paradoxes, live with contradictions, and ask questions rather than demand answers.

Here are some insights into what nonpolar leaders know and practice that remain hidden to polar thinking leaders. Nonpolar leaders:

  • seek first to understand
  • patiently wait, listen, and learn
  • know that every one-sided answer or solution leads to failure, exclusion, and only kicks the problem on down the road
  • see other alternatives and possibilities
  • know there is no perfect solution
  • are servant leaders rather than command, demand, and control leaders
  • search collaboratively with others for solutions
  • are able to entertain even the partial truth that the other opinion might be offering
  • are not over-identified with their position
  • don’t need to always be right
  • think beyond personal advantage and ask, “how can this situation serve the greater good?”
  • emphasize the why of a decision and lovingly connect it to group values and spiritual truth
  • don’t need to humiliate or defeat those who disagree with, hurt, or criticize them
  • know that when well done, compromise and inclusiveness does not have to be viewed as abdicating core values but rather as helping reinforce other values

In short, nonpolar leaders understand that Jesus’s message of love, forgiveness, mercy, non-judgement, inclusiveness, and grace can’t be fully grasped with polarity thinking, yet when fully experienced totally breaks down polarities.


Posted on June 26, 2018
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Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5