The Leadership Seesaw

As a girl, I loved to play at the park.  The outdoors felt so expansive, open, promising.  Accompanied by the already wonderful feeling of being outside was the fact that other kids would be in the same space and I could socialize and share a sense of belonging with them as we ran, laughed, and played.  We were true creatives as our imaginations mapped out detailed imaginary scenes for playtime.

For the more adventurous child, like myself, we would ensure that we scoured every single place of the playground.  Of course, the swings and the merry-go-round were two of the most popular park items, but we would often take pause to play on the seesaw. In reminiscing of my childhood, I began to think of how time on the seesaw can be paralleled to our life as leaders.

Leadership is a balancing act.

The first question I have asked other leaders is “so how do you it all and make it look so easy?!”  Akin to our time on the seesaw as kids, the seesaw required us to balance our weight and the weight of others.  If one person was too light, then the individual with more weight used their (strength and position) to make the seesaw move.  But the goal was not to just go up and down, but to create a joyful experience of balance which relied on each person. At times, the person with the most weighted position had to give a bit more of themselves to make that experience pleasant (effective) for both parties. Thus, as leaders, we can often find ourselves having to utilize the weight of our influence, position to help our teams have professional experiences that add value to their lives on the playgrounds of our professional spaces.

Leadership requires communication, trust, and vulnerability.

As a child, I can remember hopping on the seesaw with older children twice my size and weight. I remember being so excited…until…. the weight of the older child would keep me perched at the top of the seesaw until they had enough mercy to let me down. Talk about the ultimate stall and inconvenient impasse!  In that moment, I realized that I would have to negotiate (sometimes graciously and sometimes not so graciously) to be let down to a balanced level or to the ground level where I could get off peaceably.

Leadership parallels this illustration in so many ways.  As on the seesaw, as leaders, we often can determine if we will place our teams in “holding” patterns or use the force of our weight to move them into a position that causes them to have balance or move forward.  In this place, you also must ensure the other person on the seesaw with you that they can trust you.  The person can trust you will not use your weight to bring them down too fast or too slow.  They can trust you to communicate with them to hold on tight for what is coming or express what your next move will be that impacts them.  It is a process which requires communication, intentionality, and vulnerability.  In addition, it is important to note that each person on the seesaw has a responsibility and every person’s action or inaction will determine the outcome of the experience.  You can make the decision to guide and lead with intention, but you also can make the choice to act without the other person knowing your next move.  Without communication, trust, and vulnerability we might cause others to experience unnecessary hang time!

Leadership requires vision.

The goal on the seesaw was so that each person would have the opportunity to “see”.  The first to see then moved to the one that “saw”, but everyone on the seesaw could catch a glimpse of what was up in the air.  Leadership requires that we vision and help others see it as well.

Great seesawing is an art form, like leadership, and mastering the playground can take time but is worth “seeing” joy in hearts and smiles on faces!

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