Book Review: When Opposites Dance

When Opposites Dance

by Roy G. Williams and Terrence E. Deal

Davies-Black ©2003

216 pages

Balancing the Manager And Leader Within

For leadership and management to be effective together, they must learn to cooperate in a harmonious dance of opposite natures. To help managers and leaders become more effective and coordinate this dance better, leadership experts Roy Williams and Terrence Deal have combined their talents to investigate and reveal the roots of both concepts to create a formula that helps leaders and managers improve their strengths.

Roy and Deal believe that managers and leaders must first become aware of their own personal styles before they can dance with their counterparts. When Opposites Dance shows managers and leaders how they can better recognize issues inherent in each situation for which they are responsible and attain balance. Throughout, the authors use examples from American history to illustrate each of the four types of leaders and managers — the rationalist, the politicist, the humanist and the culturalist — and their place on the spectrum between the roles of manager and leader.

Precision and Passion

The authors explain how the opposing forces of management — which is based on precision — and leadership — which is based on passion — can be balanced through awareness and acceptance of the tension between them. By being aware of the tension, they say leaders and managers can find balance, be more creative, and dance with their opposites. Using Jungian psychology and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® to inventory the personalities that make up their work, as well as concepts from organizational behavior and cognitive psychology, they create the foundation on which they build their theories.

The authors write that how effective you are in embracing your opposite determines how effective you are personally and professionally. This harmony of opposites allows leaders and managers to bond precision, logic and thoughtful analysis with passion, enthusiasm and spirit. There is a dire need for the productive tension between leadership and management, and many workplaces are out of balance because of this lack of synergy. The ideas they offer aim to help you discover where you are and where you need to go along the management-leadership path.

To help leaders and managers bring their opposites together in a more harmonious balance to eliminate conflict, the authors provide numerous real-life examples of leaders and celebrities who exemplify the ideas and personalities that need to be understood before balance can be achieved. To personify the structural, political, human resource and symbolic aspects of managers and leaders, they present women’s basketball coach Pat Summit, Senator Hillary Clinton, women’s movement founder Betty Friedan and television personality Oprah Winfrey. They also offer presidents Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan as examples of those representing the spectrum of cognitive and behavioral strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The authors also focus on the executives who run various airline companies to exemplify the same spectrum in a single industry. To help managers cope with the styles of their leaders, and vice versa, When Opposites Dance delves into the underlying essence of a dozen notable public figures, each of whom exemplifies a distinct style and mind-set that epitomizes the strengths and weaknesses of either leading or managing. These examples show how combining the right styles that balance out the leader-manager equation strengthens the capabilities of both.

After identifying the tell-tale signs of each manager and leader type and the distinctions between their masculine and feminine sides, the authors show managers and leaders how they can enhance their ability to reflect on their own styles to determine how effective they will be. Citing many academic texts on the benefits of self-reflection and self-awareness, the authors explain what questions managers and leaders should be asking themselves to generate the proper perspective on their styles, and the awareness necessary to be successful at managing and leading. By demonstrating how a rationalist balances with a humanist, and a culturalist balances with a politicist, the authors show how together they can accomplish more than they can alone. ~

Why We Like This Book

Although When Opposites Dance is filled with plenty of academic jargon, sociological discussions of embracing masculine and feminine qualities, and deep intellectual processes, its firm roots in modern business and culture bring its contents to a level that allows readers to glean many valuable ideas. Its focus on introspection, self-awareness and balancing styles offers numerous valid insights for making leadership and management more effective in many ways when finding and creating harmonious partnerships. ~

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