Essential Leadership: The Art of Holding Both

A client recently referred to me as a “team whisperer” of sorts. It took a while to figure out that what I have been doing in my trainings and with my equal obsession with leadership and personal relationships is creating thriving teams – within an individual, a relationship or an office – and fixing broken ones.

While I was reflecting a great deal about the ingredients of successful teams, I found myself ruminating on one very special ability: holding two seemingly opposing views, feelings or pictures at one time. Or what I like to call The Art of Holding Both.

I was fixated on this one principle because recently I find myself practicing it religiously.

Trudging through a recent break-up, there are times when I feel awash in a multi-layered fog of loss. When I allow the dismal thoughts and stories associated with the feelings to lead (“I am alone,” “I will be alone forever,” “I am too old, too picky, etc.”), the team within is immobilized. I find myself wandering aimlessly in a very bleak forest. But when I cradle my pain in one arm while holding faith, hope and trust in myself in the other, I move through the world with an exquisite tension.

This tension is like sandpaper. It is the grueling labor of muscle building. It is the fertile garden of creativity and vitality.

A successful romantic partnership is able to soar in ecstasy and deal effectively with conflict. Click To Tweet

A good lover or parent can be irritated by and grateful for their beloved in the same breath.

A strong leader knows how to tolerate setbacks and move towards the stated vision. Click To Tweet

A valuable team member withstands the frustration that his teammate is not a great presenter while knowing that the information being delivered at the meeting is crucial for the team’s development.

Holding both.

It’s an art.

Join me.

13 responses to “Essential Leadership: The Art of Holding Both”

  1. Jennifer says:

    So beautiful, Blair. Thanks for sharing. (I’m so sorry about your recent heartbreak. Let me know if there’s anything I can do / if you’d like an ear to chat.)

  2. Alli Polin says:

    So deeply and sincerely touched by your description of the tension and potential that lies in our ability to hold both. You are nothing less than remarkable.

  3. Samantha says:

    What a wonderful post on the creative tension that exists between paradoxical ‘feeling’ states!

    When we are not caught up in either/or , black and white thinking, it is much easier to accept the two seemingly contradictory and opposing positions.

    We can be generally ‘content’ with most things yet feel discontent about specific areas. It doesn’t mean we are ‘never’ happy or ‘always’ happy ever second of every day. lol

    The beauty of understanding this tension is we are less inclined to throw the baby out with the bathwater. when it comes to ourselves or other people.

    Thanks for sharing Blair.

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Such an astute comment, Samantha, thank you.
      You clearly understand the dangers of black and white thinking and elucidate for us the spectrum of experience that is closer to reality and, in my opinion, more dynamic.
      Thanks again for reading and commenting.

  4. I was reading about “tensegrity” tension and integrity in the body and in nature. I think it’s the same.

    Thank you Blair for opening from your own experience.

  5. Terri Klass says:

    Love the sandpaper metaphor and your insightful post, Blair!

    We are constantly being pulled in many different directions when we are on teams and when we just live life daily. It does seem to be a give and take on how we cope with disappointment in others and hold steadfast to our positive path forward. So tough sometimes that we do get sidetracked.

    But as you say, these opposing forces are what ultimately move us forward to swim in new waters and face new adventures.

    Thanks Blair!

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thanks, Terri! It is so easy to get distracted! Holding both is a discipline and an art. Thanks for your insight and comments!

  6. Lolly Daskal says:

    I truly enjoyed your post.

    I felt your words when you wrote, This tension is like sandpaper. It is the grueling labor of muscle building. It is the fertile garden of creativity and vitality.

    Sometimes the sandpaper remains the sandpaper, and it remains rough longer than we want it to. It is the struggle and the roughness what gives us our roots into ourselves.

    The lesson just may be…Sometimes the ground is fertile and sometimes we have to start planting else where.

    The wisdom of struggle and tension. Is to listen to the whispers of within and to trust it is taking you where you need to be.


    • Blair Glaser says:

      What a beautiful comment Lolly! “The lesson just may be…Sometimes the ground is fertile and sometimes we have to start planting elsewhere.” Your wisdom resonates. It is important to distinguish between the type of refining tension that involves growth and the grit and grind of spinning your wheels. It is always good to listen within and follow the impulses to either stretch where you are or move to another garden. Much love.

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