The Leadership Principle of Complementarity

Neils Bohr coined the complementarity principle in his approach to quantum physics. Bohr explained the need to embrace two different and apparently contradictive views of reality. One is the view that light is made of particles and the other that it is a wave. Particle and Wave views of reality are mathematically contradictive yet both are needed to hold together Quantum Physics.

What is the complementarity principle of leadership?

First, there cannot be effective leading without effective following. The complimentarity of leadership is to embrace the “follower’s perspective” together with the “leader’s perspective”. Like waves and particles the leadership and followship views are mathematically different yet both are needed to create an integral organization that is ready to actualize a vision.

The second facet of the complimentarity principle in leading is “results-driven” and “process-driven” leadership. Here is how it works. The best way to get results is to focus on the process that creates and delivers optimal results. The best way to engineer a process is to hold in mind the results you hope to deliver while you design the process.

Think about a challenging conversation. You want the other person to understand your point of view. That is the result you hope to achieve. The process to get there is more than expressing your viewpoint. Before the other person can understand they must feel understood. To appreciate your viewpoint they need to feel you appreciate theirs. You’ve got to listen before you can be listened to. That is the process of connection that leads to resultant understanding. You as a leader hold the point of complimentarity and integration.

© Aviv Shahar

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