Rubber Bands, Relationships and Leadership

I heard something at this year's Global Leadership Summit that has resonated with me.

While it compared the good old rubber band to our relationships with other people I feel it can go further...delving into the relationship with our goals also. Let me explain.

The concept was that as a leader, whose responsibility is to lead and grow others, my relationship with everyone else is comparable to a rubber band. As I set challenges that grow someone a goal is set that stretches them, there is now tension on the rubber band.

Once there is tension there are only two possibilities, one is to release the tension and the other is to ignore it. However, in reality ignoring the tension is actually impossible. The ongoing tension will destroy a relationship and often seek to undermine a leader's position to actually lead.

The only option really remaining is to release the tension. The tension is released in one of three ways.

  1. The person being stretched grows and moves towards the goals and expectations set for them.
  2. The leader reconsiders the goal or expectation and removes whatever it is that has established the tension.
  3. A hybrid of both number one and two.

So long as the goal or expectation is achievable there is no reason that the leader should shift. If our purpose as a leader is not to grow others around us, what is it? A quality leader will know those around them and maximise the tension that they can handle in order to grow them at an optimal rate.

A leader who continually removes expectations and goals for development is not a leader. A leader needs to feel the rubber band pull.

The worst way to reduce the tension is to lessen the expectation...the tension is gone, but so is the growth opportunity.
I am grateful to have had leaders in my life who have not released the tension for me by removing the opportunity, rather they have put support my way to enable the tension to lessen by me moving forward...towards the higher expectation and growth opportunity.

The tension is lessened because I have grown.

The concept of 'rubber band relationships' also exists with our goals. Sometimes we set 'easy' goals in order grow. By setting an 'easy' goal the rubber band has little tension, however, it provides limited opportunity for growth. Sometimes the goal is set too big and the tension is too high and the rubber band breaks. In this case, the relationship with the goal is broken and it will not be reached...hence there will be no growth either.

If the analogy stands true it would appear that without tension there is no growth. A measure of a leader is to know those who they lead and how much tension each can cope with. We all have a different tension tolerance, however, if we want growth...which is one of our BHAGs, then we need to recognise tension is necessary.


While tension is important, I do not advocate tension without release. I see this as a place where the rubber band is stretched and released, then new goals bring more opportunity for growth - the tension is increased and as the teacher grows the tension is released again.

Parting it possible to be a successful leader if those who we are responsible for do not grow?