More times than not, I think we seek the path of least resistance. It’s our survival instinct. We avoid obstacles, challenges, and danger, rather than asking how we could harness it and use it for good. But things we often avoid and resist can be powerful if harnessed. Consider explosions: left unconfined, they damage their surroundings in meaningful ways. Bottle them in the cylinder of an internal combustion engine and what do you get?
The power to move.
Let’s consider the Archer. The Archer’s Analogy notes that leaders have a tendency to avoid tension as if it’s a bad thing. But, just as with a bow, tension can be essential. Positive tension, like positive stress, can awaken our senses, sharpen our minds and empower us in ways that relaxed, tensionless environments can’t. If it weren’t for tension, the archer would have no power. What gives the archer’s arrow the power to fly is the tension applied at the bow. Too little tension means the arrow achieves nothing. But add more tension, and the arrow suddenly becomes a powerful tool, capable of far greater distances and effect.
For a leader, like an archer, it’s a balance. It’s not tension for tension sake; rather, it’s the right amount necessary to reach the goal with power and confidence. We must constantly be aware that with too much tension, the arrow will fall through the bow; too little, and you won’t meet your mark. In either case, done carelessly it will harm the Archer’s bow-holding arm (Trust me — that hurts like H-E-double hockey sticks!).
We as leaders walk a tightrope of balance between too little and too much. It’s easy to lose our balance, but much like the lesson of archery, the value of tension shows up again and again. Without it, a tightrope isn’t tight, and walking it isn’t an option; you simply get stuck in the saggy middle unable to move forward or backwards.
If you want to make progress, you need to embrace a healthy amount of tension.