In life there is a natural continuum between principles and pragmatism. It runs throughout our work, our personal decisions, our politics and our businesses. Running the gauntlet between the two polar forces is a key tenet of successful leadership.
The allure of the principled leader is strong. We want people who stand for something, organisations with clear values and purpose. But the frustration is palpable when they stand in the way of things just getting done.
People who make things happen, who are willing to compromise and change their position. We admire them with a distrust. What wouldn’t they forsake?
Knowing when to stand by your personal value set, your principles and knowing when to let go and move on for the sake of organisational/societal benefit is perhaps the biggest challenge for us all.
This easy answer is to say it’s neither one nor the other – it is a beautiful simple, yet totally impotent perspective. An anodyne position which adds little to any understanding of the complexity of values and decision-making.
Because the truth to leadership is not recognising when you need to compromise, or stick by your principles – but understanding why others need to do so. Giving forgiveness and tolerance to the value sets of others.
It doesn’t matter whether it is personal, business or political. Our difference is created by recognising the difference in others. That sometimes we all need to stand firm and sometimes we need to change, admit we were wrong and reconsider.
Failure is when we judge without seeking to understand.