Senior leaders have to paint a compelling vision for the future while pragmatically establishing the steps to get there.
Customer Service teams must give customers personalised care and attention while still hitting strict call-time targets.
Managers are expected to be tough decision-makers and also collaborative explorers.
Head versus heart, masculine versus feminine, soft versus hard – getting the balance right between each is critical to business success.
Recognising the importance of this – perhaps too late – RBS is now focussing its recruitment drive on humanities graduates, as well as those with degrees in scientific disciplines such as maths, economics and science (see Banks need arts graduates to put humanity back into business by Greg Hurst in The Times, Tuesday 18th November 2014).
As well as greedy bankers, frenzied consumerism and managers who were afraid to challenge those in the higher echelons, Hurst suggests that too much focus on science and too little on the humanities helped drive much of the globe into financial meltdown.
Most businesses, recognising the need for this balance, put the burden on each individual leader to make it a reality.
This has led organisations worldwide to create competency frameworks against which managers are assessed – and their bonuses awarded.
But the diametrically opposed behaviours and skill-sets that this requires too often drive inconsistent behaviour on the part of individual leaders.
In particular this effects the way managers choose to communicate: directive and authoritarian one day, inclusive and discursive the next.
Strategically focussed on a Tuesday, exploring individual goals and aspirations on a Wednesday.
The problem is that the people being led notice this inconsistency – and don't like it.
As human beings, even those of us who are comfortable with change like a surprising level of certainty.
Too often the drive to achieve this essential balance on an individual level actually erodes trust.
How feasible is it for individual leaders across our organisations to fulfil the opposing requirements of their role?