Yin & Yang in Leadership

Yin and Yang is a brilliant symbol and a superb allegory approach to describe excellence in leadership. Let me point out some of the possible applications already posted in my blogs. In the post “IQ & EQ for Leaders” I've written about the importance of “intelligence and emotional quotients” to the leadership. For a leader it is crucial to find a proper mixture of EQ and IQ substances to achieve correct methods/processes that deliver desired results. It is not enough to possess one or the other, the same as in Yin and Yang concept. Another blog “Virtue – Morality – Ethics and leadership” I claimed that virtue motivates, morals and ethics constrain. The last two represent an ego which could be one of the biggest barriers for people to work together effectively (EGO and Leadership?) in multicultural organizations that are spread around the globe. Again here we have two opposite things in leadership that “conflict” with each other.

But Yin and Yang is much more than mere opposites.

The idea of Yin and Yang is mostly found in philosophies and religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Daoism, Buddhism, as well as in the ancient Chinese scripture I Ching. There is even a Western version of it in the Kabbalah.
the universe
 The Chinese long ago understood the Nature as the interplay of dualities with both, complementary and opposing characteristics like: male and female, water and fire, sky and earth, day and night, active and passive. In martial arts Yin and Yang principle represents: soft and hard, motion and stillness, attack and defense. According to Chinese Daoist scripture, the universe was initially without life. The world had just cooled down from its fiery creation, all was foggy and blurry, without differentiation or separation, with no extremities or ends. This state was called Wu Ji meaning limitless or literally ‘no extremity.’ Later, the existing natural energy divided into two extremities, known as Yin and Yang. This polarity, or division, is called ‘Tai Chi’ meaning ‘grand ultimate’ or ‘grand extremity.’ So when you are standing still before you start a Tai Chi sequence, you are in a state of Wu Ji. And when you move you basically follow Yin and Yang principle of motion and stillness. In Tai Chi one has to understand stillness inside and movement outside, insubstantial (Yin) and substantial (Yang), and refining the sense of balance and rotational skills in both, receiving force (Yin) and returning force (Yang).

DualismYin and Yang
In China it is believed that a philosophical concept of Yin and Yang helps to understand the workings of the world through a universal principle. But this principle does not give either element Yin or Yang to take a prominence or precedence, yet they are interdependent and inextricable. Each is useful and valid and reinforces the other in a positive dynamic. The symbol (on left) shows Yin or Yang dot in the ‘strongest’ part of Yang or Yin. And this is the rudimentary difference introduced by Yin and Yang vis-à-vis René Descartes’ dualism. Dualism separates two opposing things clearly with no possibility to one holding the other. It represents clear entities like good or bad, correct or wrong, god or devil. This seems very unnatural not representing life at all. Chocolate is not only good, mistake is not only bad.

Back to the leadership: the importance of the idea is as practical as it is philosophical. Great leaders are no strangers to the idea that skills, results, behavior, instructions etc. come in pairs. They are aware that leadership could be ‘balanced’ or not, ‘task-oriented’ or ‘people-oriented’. But only excellent leaders are able to combine opposite approaches in a holistic way. They usually resolve the tension between the two sides simply by taking a position to favor one but “not kill” the other.

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