It is cold in Minnesota and although the days are getting longer, the weekend forecast is for single digits. If I weren't heading to Milwaukee to watch Marquette take on Providence, I might consider finding time to curl up with a book. Since I won't be reading, at least I can offer a qoute for today from St. Paul, Minnesota native, F. Scott Fitzgerald:
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time. . . (The Crack-Up (1936))
This quotation is often quoted, but mostly "under-quoted." I suppose it is fairly easy for most people to consider the notion of holding two opposing thoughts. Deeper and richer perspective comes when you include the 26 words that follow . . .
F. Scott Fitzgerald, photographed by Carl van Vechten
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.
I believe F. Scott makes the point that, beyond being a genius, to be a fully-functioning leader, innovator, 1920's-era flapper or author, we must apply our intelligence by putting it into action. Even further, the example he offers suggests one additional step - determination. So if we think smart about a problem, a client, an innovation opportunity - even if it appears hopeless - determined action will give us a fighting chance of creating hope and seeing it through to the finish.
- Other-Focused: My ego takes a back seat to authenticity and building trust.
- Internally-Directed: I am building higher levels of confidence by closing gaps between values and behavior. (Hmmm - practicing what I preach, eh?)
- Externally Open: I am moving outside of my comfort zone to seek real feedback and reach higher levels of awareness and competence.
- Purpose-Centered: I am clarifying what result I want to create and holding an unwavering standard as I pursue a meaningful task.
The idea is to strive to be in all four states at the same time. Quinn believes that virtually no one operates there all of the time. But I think it especially counts when an important conversation, decision or strategic move is about to take place.
With some clarity and honesty, we can figure out "where we are at" any moment in time. For example:
- If we are Internally-Directed but not Externally Closed, we may be over-confident and miss signals in the marketplace. We may not adapt fast enough.
- If we are Purpose-Centered but Self-Focused, we may be so focused on our goals that we limit our connections and conversation with others, while we risk destroying trust and authenticity.
When we know we are being egotistical, that we are ignoring reality or our commitments, then we have an opportunity, if we are courageous, to do differently.
This has great meaning and value for any leader, any organization or community. As we and our organizations become more transparent, the Fundamental State of Leadership offers a way to greater integrity, productivity, energy and commitment.
What do you think?
- Quinn talks about competing values such as, reflective action, responsible freedom, detached interdependence. What other pairs of opposite traits can you think of that would lead one to the Fundamental State of Leadership?
- As communities self-organize, what is the importance of striving to function in this state?