Leap Forward by Combining Contrasting Qualities

The really great leaders display contrasting, even conflicting qualities.

Some are curious and decisive. Others bring creativity and execution together. Being tender and tenacious is another surprising combination.

successful leaders are both curious and decisive

Radically improve your leadership by bringing contrasting qualities together.

Use contrasting words to describe how you want to show up in your current context or next encounter.

Contrasting qualities:

  1. Curious and decisive.
  2. Empathetic and firm.
  3. Calm and energetic.
  4. Candid and compassionate.
  5. Open and anchored.
  6. Forward-facing and respect of the past.
  7. Irreverent and respectful.
  8. Creative and dedicated to execution.
  9. Affirming and dissatisfied.
  10. Frustrated and grateful.


Don’t temper contrasting qualities. You become bland and forgettable.

Bring contrasting qualities fully together. Don’t use curiosity to soften decisiveness, for example.


Frustration and gratitude.

Make a list of frustrations. Alongside, your frustrations, record expressions of gratitude.

Frustration – Mary lost a client. Gratitude – (What makes you thankful for Mary.)

Don’t soften frustration with gratitude. Take action with contrasting qualities fully present.

Affirmation and dissatisfaction.

Prepare three statements that bring affirmation and dissatisfaction together.

  1. I wonder where your tenacity will take you in the future. (Insert any positive quality.)
  2. That was fantastic. How might you get to the next level?
  3. I’ve seen you do better. What are you learning?

Creativity and execution:

Expect conversations to end with action steps that produce useful results. What’s the point if you aren’t taking action?

  1. What are we doing next?
  2. How might we put this into action this afternoon?
  3. Who’s going to champion this idea?
  4. When will the next step be completed?
  5. Let’s evaluate progress next Monday.

When leaders get better, the people around them get better. Become a better leader by being intentional about how you show up.

Which contrasting qualities do you find most useful/challenging/interesting?

How might leaders bring contrasting qualities together?