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The Goldilocks Paradox – Leadership Freak


The Goldilocks Paradox

May 15, 2024

Robert Southey wrote the short story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in 1837. A little girl happens upon the house of three bears where she finds three bowls of porridge, three chairs, and three beds.

Goldilocks samples the porridge and finds pappa bear’s is too hot, momma bear’s is too cold, and baby bear’s is just right. She eats it. She finds three chairs. One is too hard. One is too soft. Baby bear’s is just right. Upstairs she sees three beds. The big bed is too hard. The medium-sized bed is too soft. Baby’s bed is just right.

Goldilocks falls asleep. The bears come home. Goldilocks wakes up and runs away. I’ve been afraid of bears ever since.

The story illustrates the dance between too much and too little constantly.

The Goldilocks Paradox - Extremes reveal norms. Image of two puppies playing tug-of-war.

The Goldilocks Paradox:

Extremes reveal norms.

The path forward rises between extremes.

Challenge and support:

Tension between challenge and support illustrates the dance. Too much challenge causes frustration and discouragement. Too little challenge leads to boredom. Extreme leadership results in two things, poor performance and strained relationships.

challenge and support

4 questions to dance with extremes:

  1. What level of challenge brings out your best?
  2. How challenged do you feel right now?
  3. What’s causing you to say your challenge level is X?
  4. What could you/we do to move toward the right level of challenge for you today?
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Too much help leads to helplessness. Too little help causes disengagement. The amount of help you provide speaks to your nature. Some lean toward overhelping. Others naturally push people too hard.

Before helping ask, “What have you tried?” Don’t do someone’s job for them. The best way to help novices is with assurances. Let them know they’re on the right path.

Monitor energy to dance the Goldilocks Paradox effectively.

How are you dancing the Goldilocks Paradox?

What suggestions do you have for succeeding with the Goldilocks Paradox?

Author’s note: Paul Thornton’s comment on the May 10th post motivated me to explore this topic. Thanks Paul.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

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