In Roman mythology, Janus was the god with two faces. He had the ability to look back at the past and forward into the future. He gave his name to the month of January, the point of change between the old year and the new. Janus was also the god of doorways, bridges, beginnings and endings.
The term ‘Janusian thinking’ has been coined to indicate a way of combining apparently contradictory ideas or beliefs in a constructive way. Understanding our own perspective on a situation, while valuing others’ views is certainly a healthy leadership skill. It’s an approach that is particularly well-suited to navigating through change, when everyone is bobbing about in a sea of uncertainty and ambiguity. The full facts are not always available; the situation may be messy and the way forward is decidedly foggy.
Under these conditions, tight, logical analysis is rarely the solution. A more intuitive and looser frame of mind comes into play. The ability to balance the right degree of control to maintain ‘business as usual’ with a more open, collaborative and creative style to craft a way forward is Janusian thinking at its finest.
The approach is completely scaleable: whether you are leading a global giant or hesitating at a personal crossroads, the same mental flexibility comes in handy. Moving forward without discounting past experience is the art of looking in two different directions at the same time: demanding on the muscles admittedly, but ultimately worth the pain in the neck.