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Unreasonable Leaders Reframe What Is Possible
Great leaders are sometimes unreasonable people. They don’t accept the conventional wisdom embraced religiously by others. To achieve significant breakthroughs, they sometimes reject the accepted orthodoxy and reframe what is possible.
In traditional ways of thinking, leaders must choose between two competing outcomes. As the saying goes, they can’t have their cake and eat it too. Confronting the either/ors of life is what effective leadership is all about. Good leaders, we are told, make good choices.
Consider some of life’s trade-offs: We can’t live in a rural community and have a reasonable commute into a large city, pursue higher education and also start a career, build equity while renting a home, create social good and achieve high profits.
Leadership trade-offs are also well-known: Leaders can’t offer low compensation and expect high team morale, eliminate manager hierarchy and hold others accountable, establish norms and rules and foster creativity.
Or so we are told.
On occasion, a truly remarkable leader will become unreasonable and refuse to compromise. They will hold a view that transcends trade-offs and seeks to create an outcome fusing two sides of a continuum. They turn either/or into both/and.
Sam Walton built one of the world’s largest businesses by combining high value and low cost. Steve Jobs married beauty and function in technology and forever changed the personal computer landscape. Oprah Winfrey linked self-development and talk show interviews and permanently changed television. Jeff Bezos rejected orthodoxy and yoked wide selection with fast delivery, altering how consumers buy products. We know their names because they reframed what was possible.
What trade-off do you accept too readily? Perhaps, it is time to become an unreasonable leader and refuse to compromise. Your organizations, and maybe the world, might be better for it.