Tension is building in the meeting because something is happening that doesn’t usually happen. It’s awkward. Somebody is speaking really directly. Nobody is speaking. The sacred cows are being assailed or they’re being vigorously defended, but whatever is happening people are starting to fidget and cast little sideways looks, first to their neighbor and then to you, the leader. You know why they’re looking; you feel it too.
It feels urgent to tamp down the tension, doesn’t it? To restore some equilibrium and dispel the discomfort in the room by cracking a joke or by gently correcting the new person, by redirecting? It feels in moments like these like your job as leader is to pilot the vessel back to the safety of the status quo.
We should probably stay in the choppy water for a bit, though, because people can handle more than we think they can, more than we can, and because nothing really important ever happened without some tension and discomfort.
Sometimes leadership feels like allowing ourselves and our people to be awkward.