Photo by Kristian Bjornard

I don’t see the world through a lens of either/or; rather, I see the and.

I will give you just one example of how we try to put the world into either/or, when in fact most situations have an and.

Robin Pendoley shares an important and compelling view in the entry “Social Innovation Won’t Save the World” on his blog Thinking Beyond Borders. He believes that social innovation isn’t the solution unto itself, but rather it is a tool that is only effective when placed in the hands of a talented leader. The leader is the key, not the tool.

In contrast, Harvard Business School organizational psychology professor Gautam Mukunda, who has written a book called Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matterbelieves most leaders are interchangeable. Mukunda contends that most individual leaders have little or no real impact on the organizations they lead (although once in a rare while a leader comes along who is truly an irreplaceable agent of change). Mukunda believes that leaders are so constrained by internal and external factors that any one of a number of competent people could be interchanged, and their actions would be close to the same.

I have never seen powerful progress on anything with just the right tool or just the right leader. Rather, magic happens when a powerful vision is tied to a skilled leader armed with the right resources and tools. Often, we seek to solve problems absent the right leadership or send a leader into battle minus the right resources. The genius is in the and.

Next time you hear something positioned as either/or, ask yourself: Is there a third way that includes and?

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