The Pendulum Philosophy

by | Apr 4, 2022 | Leadership

Most of us want to be known as mature leaders. We want people take our leadership seriously and treat us like we belong, whether that be professionally at work or personally amongst our family and friends. In this training session, I’m going to explain the Pendulum Philosophy, which gives leaders a framework to detect areas of immaturity and shows how to compensate for them.


When it comes to leadership, maturity is hard to define. But we know a mature leader when we interact with them. So how do we grow in maturity? We need to know our pendulums. Confused yet? 

Years ago, I developed what I call the Pendulum Philosophy. Here’s how it applies to personal development and effective leadership.

The Pendulum Philosophy

Think about one of those big, old-timey clocks where the second “hand” swings back and forth. That’s a pendulum.  Another more technical definition is “something that alternates between opposites”.  Basically, a pendulum moves between two extremes.

We all have personal pendulums. When given two seemingly opposing strengths, skills, attributes, or decisions, we have a natural bent towards one or the other. For example, think about planning and spontaneity. Stereotypically, if you are a good planner, you probably are not very spontaneous and vice versa.  Picture planning on the left side of a scale and spontaneity on the right. The further you move from the middle to the right, the more spontaneous you are and the less planning you do.

The Pendulum Philosophy can be applied to most things in life. Take conflict for example. Do you lean toward initiating conflict or running from it? How about self-perception? Do you have a bent towards being overly critical of yourself or do you have an elevated view of your strengths?  Do you talk too much or too little?

At this point you may be wondering, “Why is this important? It seems like common sense.” And you are right, it is common sense.  The simplest lessons in life are generally the most valuable; you just have to be cognizant of them.

The Power of the Pendulum 

The pendulum is all about self-awareness. In a previous training session, I mentioned that self-awareness is one of the top 7 lessons that have shaped my leadership over the last 20 years. It leads to maturity, which in turn leads to effectiveness.

Let’s look at our planning versus spontaneity example again. Both of these are inherently strengths. Planners typically are very productive because they are organized. They plan their work and work their plan. Spontaneous people excel at creating memories. They are typically the life of the party and are gifted at cultivating relationships. However, every strength comes with a curse. Those inherent weaknesses become greater as the pendulum moves to the extreme. An extreme planner can easily become ineffective in relationships. They lack flexibility and don’t allow room for interruptions. Their family and close friends can become very frustrated because they are more willing to stick to their schedule than they are to make themselves available. On the other end of the spectrum, extremely spontaneous people can become ineffective at tasks. They start projects and never finish because something more exciting comes up. Family and friends may become annoyed with extreme spontaneity as well because they lack dependability.

This curse or weakness can distract from your strength. The more powerful the weakness, the less impactful the strength. The Pendulum Philosophy makes you aware of this curse or weakness. The goal is not necessarily to become more “well rounded”, but to become more aware and therefore effectively avoid the extremes.

I am a planner. I know that my first instinct will always be to plan. This is a strength, and is not something I shy away from. However, I need to recognize that there are times spontaneity is good. I will never be gifted in that area, but I can learn to loosely hold my schedule at times and be more available to help my friends and family when they are in need. Knowing my pendulum allows me to rethink my natural bent and potentially make a course correction if needed.

Game Plan

The pendulum philosophy can be applied to an almost unlimited number of situations. This week, think through these five common strength areas. Which are you naturally bent toward?

  1. Are you more critical or unaware?
  2. Other people. Are you more judgmental or compassionate?
  3. Are you a planner or do you embrace spontaneity?
  4. Do you tend to talk too much or too little?
  5. Are you more confrontational or a peace-maker? 


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