What’s an oxymoron? Well, it puts two seemingly contradictory terms in conjunction, like “deafening silence,” “definite possibility,” or “act naturally.”

Along similar lines, the concepts of “caring” and “assertive” are often perceived to be at odds with one another.

💖A caring leader may not be known for being decisive or firm.

On the other hand…

📢 We may not expect someone assertive to exhibit compassion or thoughtfulness when addressing the team.

But what if these weren’t contradictory concepts and in fact, proved to be both congruent and additive? In fact, a Caringly Assertive manager is exactly the kind of leader you need to establish a productive culture, to encourage people to come out of their corners, and unlock new potential in the business.

The Caringly Assertive matrix.

I’ll bet you can think of someone you’ve worked with, who fits within each of these quadrants.

1. The ultra-caring leader who lacked assertiveness. Did you feel a personal lack of clarity and did the organization struggle with inefficiency? You see, if leaders care for the team but shy away from tough conversations, they’re doing their people a disservice by failing to help them grow. They’re also neglecting to provide the helpful, clear and consistent direction that we need to move forward in harmony and at pace.

2. Or what about the straight-shooting leader who has no trouble telling you what to do, but doesn’t understand (or care about) how his direction lands? Have you ever felt demoralized around a leader like Bill Lumbergh? Did you ever observe the physical reaction on the floor when that leader walked by? And how often did someone raise his/her hand with a new idea around him?

3. What about the lower left quadrant? Lack of both caring and assertiveness can characterize a whole different brand of frustration. Have you ever worked for someone who fit this definition? What happened to the culture of the place and how did you observe people operating on a day by day basis?

4. Have you worked for someone who was both caring and assertive?

True caring means a leader leans into tough conversations with thoughtfulness, compassion, and respect. Expectations and goals are made clear. Clear communication is role modeled, and we begin to feel safe. Eventually, teams begin to trust that the leader has our back. Then, we begin to collaborate, help one another, and strive together in positivity and unity.

I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with any of these quadrants!