When you hear about polarization in leadership, what do you think?
You think polarization is a problem, right?
Do you think about how polarized politics silence moderate voices? … about how leaders treating everything as black and white miss the nuances of your thoughts? … about how you’ve learned to see things with nuance, which you consider more mature? … about polarizing leaders whose divisiveness you don’t like?
Maybe not everyone thinks that way, but I just searched on polarization and leadership and every post (that wasn’t about sunglasses) described polarization in leadership as a problem to overcome. I tend to think that way. My life improved as I learned to understand nuances in issues and not treat issues or people as right or wrong, rather to understand people.
People unfortunately come to see polarization as something to avoid. I did. And now I’ve learned when polarization helps.
When polarizing helps
I find polarizing helps in expressing what you like and don’t like in how you live your life. The more clearly you express yourself, the more people understand you.
How to polarize
I recommend polarizing in everything you do
- How you dress
- What events you attend or organize
- What you read
- Whom you spend time with
- How you earn money
- How you spend money
… and so on.
How not to polarize
If you do the following, you probably aren’t polarizing. Maybe you do it to avoid rejection, but you also avoid attraction. Nobody will dislike you, but they won’t like you much either. People will see you as nice and passionless.
- Dress to blend in
- Go to all events you’re invited to
- Go to no events
- Read whatever is popular
- Spend time with anyone who requests your time
- Choose a profession based on what your parents recommend, that makes the most money, or reasons other than what you love (unless out of necessity)
- Buying things you don’t need or highly value
… and so on.
Why polarizing helps
Polarizing helps when you express what you like and don’t like by attracting people who want to spend time with you and repelling those who don’t.
People who don’t want to spend time with you don’t, leaving you more time to spend with people who want to spend time with you.
Second, you learn to create community as you like it.
Third, your life has less waste—in my case, fewer people who complain without figuring out solutions, fewer people who don’t exercise, fewer martyrs and victims, fewer people who give up easily, and so on. Your results will depend on your values.
Some people I share this perspective with warn me of the risk of forming a bubble around me of people who agree with me. They misunderstand two things. First, they confuse people’s attraction to you with their agreeing with you. If you consider debate healthy and like it, you’ll attract others who do too and you won’t form a bubble. Second, they miss that you can’t help biasing the selection of people in your life through your behavior. You might as well do it consciously.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book