On Leadership and Balancing Intensity with Gentleness

Intensity and Gentleness

Dr. Seuss called life “a great balancing act” in his book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go.

And balance is a leader’s biggest struggle.

Going Strong

Highly effective leaders are relentless in making things happen, but they also know how to balance their intensity with the gentleness that is needed to connect with people. Many leaders start their careers as strong do-ers.

They are able to work hard and accomplish tasks quickly and effectively.

As they progress in their careers, they learn that the “people aspect” of leadership requires a certain kind of gentleness that may be counter-intuitive to their “go-getter” personality. This is where many leaders struggle.

If this balance is not found, leaders can be abrasive, cold, and hard-driving.

While people respect these leader’s efficiency, they don’t necessarily want to be a part of the team. A balanced leader, however, will have people lined-up at their door in order to join their team because working for them is so much more attractive.

Understanding Intensity

To be effective, a leader has to be intense in their pursuit of reaching goals. It’s that intensity that allows leaders to get past the many obstacles that are thrown in their way. And there are many, and constant.

Someone in a leadership position that doesn’t possess this intensity is not going to be around for long because goals will be missed. The day-to-day distractions will get in between them and the goals that they need to achieve. An intense leader knows what needs to be done and does everything they can to achieve it.

Daily distractions are nothing but a bump in their road to success.

Intensity for a leader means that they are focused, determined, and have a strong desire to succeed.

Understanding Gentleness

Effective leaders know that people will require a gentle touch. Gentleness can sometimes fly in the face of intensity, but it is something that people require for relationships to be strong. And let’s face it, if a leader’s relationships are not strong with their people, the team will struggle to accomplish anything.

Some people will stay in an organization that only worries about production for only as long as they have to. They will only give a small percentage of their effort and energy. However, people will go the extra mile if their leader and the organization shows a gentle concern for them and their personal lives.

A leader must understand that the people in the organization want to know that they are cared for.

People want to know that their leaders are concerned for their overall well-being. Great organizations get this point and implement programs, training, and policies that show their people that they are valued. Effective leaders are the champions of these programs.

Effective leaders want to build their people up.

What “Balance” Looks Like…

Saint Francis de Sales said this:

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.”

The strongest leaders understand that the quickest way to reach the organization’s goals is to be gentle with their people in order to build relationships, and yet relentless in the pursuit of goals. This is the yin and the yang of leadership.

Building strong relationships on trust will set the foundation for the organization to get the most out of their people. It allows a leader to quickly organize the team behind their vision so that goals can be achieved.

The effective leader can flip the switch between their intensity and the gentleness needed to build relationships when they have to. They are able to adapt to the situation.

When you have reached your goals, what obstacles have you had to overcome? How intense were you required to be? How strong are your relationships with your people? Would they stand with you in tough times because they want to? How quickly do you adapt to what the situation requires? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Rich Bishop
Rich Bishop is President of Bishop Coaching & Consulting Group
He takes a hands-on approach to your Development through Coaching & Training
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Image Source: nytimes.com

L2L Contributing Author


  1. debbievaliant on October 2, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you for this reminder about “gentleness”.

  2. cedricj on October 10, 2013 at 10:47 am

    This is smiler to Collin’s idea that great leaders mix humility with fierce resolve


  3. Jim Trunick on October 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Great update. I like to say our greatest leadership, occurs the closest we get to our humanity !!! Balance is in the puts and takes of life shaping our leadership

    Jim Trunick

    • Rich Bishop on October 15, 2013 at 5:22 am

      Thank you, Jim, for your comment. I agree with you that our greatest leadership occurs when we get close to our humanity. We can become so focused on tasks that we lose sight of the people. The truly great leaders understand that in order to take care of the tasks, you first have to take care of the people.