The Problem With Extremes

You probably know who Jocko Willink is.

If you don’t, you might be living under a rock.

He’s a highly decorated retired Navy SEAL who commanded SEAL Team 3’s Task Unit Bruiser in Iraq. He’s also a leadership author, consultant, speaker, and podcaster.

He’s famous for posting pictures of his watch at 4:30 in the morning from the gym.

What you probably don’t know if how much Jocko and I have in common.

We were both Naval Officers.
We both have written best-selling leadership books.
We both have podcasts.
We both get up ridiculously early in the morning to workout.

But that’s where the similarities end. Jocko is truly a phenomenon. He’s a force of nature.

His leadership books dominate the best-sellers list.

He does an amazing job breaking down the leadership lessons he learned in the military and how they can be applied to every organization.

His 2018 leadership book, The Dichotomy of Leadership, really got me thinking about leadership balance.

Before this book came out, I had written several articles on micromanagement and the problems associated with it. I had also written about the problem of absent leaders – leaders that just weren’t involved.

Jocko’s book made me realize that both micromanagement and absent-management were extremes of the same leadership characteristic – management involvement.

Both micromanagement and absent-management are extremes of the same leadership characteristic – management involvement. Click To Tweet

In my career, I have worked for both micromanagers and absent managers.

Each of these managers took their level of involvement to an extreme (too much and too little) and, in each situation, it led to my frustration.

And, therein lies the challenge of leadership, finding the right balance.

The quest for balance doesn’t just relate to leadership involvement either, it permeates every aspect of managing people.

Think about these other leadership dimensions:

Emotion – If a leader is too emotional, there is unnecessary drama in the office. If a leader is emotionless, the organization feels cold and callous.

Risk tolerance – If a leader is too aggressive, the organization might cut corners and have a major failure. If a leader is over-cautious, the company may miss out on important opportunities by moving too slow.

Personality – If a leader is too nice, poor performers are rarely disciplined. If the leader is too mean, a toxic environment can exist that affects overall morale.

In almost every leadership dimension, acting in an extreme manner is a problem.

In almost every leadership dimension, acting in an extreme manner is a problem. Click To Tweet

Jocko explains that “Just as discipline and freedom are opposing forces that must be balanced, leadership requires finding the equilibrium…between one extreme and another.”

Finding the right balance is just one of the many challenges of leadership.

You need to be aware of extreme behaviors that can lead to organizational problems. Don’t be that leader who micromanages his team, but don’t be a disengaged leader either.

Both extremes will frustrate your team.

Ask yourself – are you acting in an extreme manner in one or more leadership dimensions?

Find balance and you’ll be a more effective leader.

Find balance and you’ll be a more effective leader. Click To Tweet


By the way, If you want to get more out of your daily commute, listen to my podcastDeep Leadership.  It’s available on all podcast apps.

And my best-selling leadership book, I Have the Watch, is also available on Audible for your commuting pleasure.

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