Using Nurture vs. Challenge Instead of Nature vs. Nurture to Drive Progress

To anyone leading an organization, team, or even a carpool –  let’s agree to drop the “Nature versus Nurture” debate. It’s not just babying people versus seeing if they’ll survive the tiger cage. If we want to drive progress, we can take a page from Diana Chapman and think about the balance between “Nurture and Challenge.” Here’s how to apply it:

Nature = the real world. Survival of the fittest is all about adapting to the environment, surviving, and evolving. If you’re the leader, there’s a difference between expecting your team to figure it out and supporting them while they explore. 

Good leaders give their teams the ability to try new things out. Great leaders understand,

  1. The upside opportunity, and 
  2. The downside risks. 

Great leaders understand the difference between a challenge to grow against versus a challenge to die against. Great leaders engineer real-world learning opportunities to test for success, while still nurturing via damage controls and most importantly – providing learning experiences. 

Chances are you’ve seen your share of not-so-great leadership in the name of survival of the fittest. You’ve seen managers throw weights on a bar and say, “LIFT,” just to see who can and can’t hang. Those managers do get lucky sometimes. And, they also get the teams they deserve (for better or for worse) over time. There’s a better way. 

When we focus on balancing challenge and nurture, we embrace the real goal – driving progress through growth, as our group learns to adapt and evolve together, under trusted leadership. This is the goal. 

Want a deeper look into this idea? Check out Diana Chapman’s work at Conscious Leadership Group, or her recent interview with Tim Ferriss.

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