Merge's Blog

A yo-yo versus a pendulum: a metaphor for leadership

PendulumClockDr. Michelle May is my professional colleague, and a physician who focuses on mindful eating.  Her entire philosophy is to get people to shift their thinking from yo-yo dieting to a more gradual approach.  “The problem with the metaphor of a yo-yo is that are only two options — up or down,” says Dr. May.  “You’re either tightly wound up around rules and restrictions or you’re unraveling towards the bottom again.  You’re either dieting or you’re on a binge!”  Gradual weight management on the other hand is more like a pendulum.  While there are still the two extremes of using all your energy trying to stay in control (so dieting) and spinning out of control (bingeing), there is also the gentle arc somewhere in the middle where you are in charge.  And it’s that arc of the pendulum that should be your objective.

It occurred to me that this metaphor of the yo-yo versus the pendulum is also very applicable to leadership.  You no doubt have at some point in your career seen managers or supervisors who have yo-yo temperaments — at one extreme they’re tightly wound up about policies and procedures and at the other, melting down in a freakish need for complete control.  And you’ll recall that these individuals are not very effective leaders.  Effective leadership is better served by the metaphor of the pendulum — the greatest success occurs in gentle arc somewhere in the middle where there is a balance between collaboration, consultation and being in charge.

So … have you observed situations of yo-yo management?  What are you doing to make sure you lead more like a pendulum than a yo-yo?  Please share by adding to the Comments link below.


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