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Why Leaders Need To Be Paradox Navigators Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

Why Leaders Need To Be Paradox Navigators

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


In recent years, leaders have been encouraged to have emotional intell­igence and, more recently, learn agility (or grit, resili­ence, growth mindset, persev­era­nce). In our research, navigating paradox has become the next wave in the evolution of leadership effect­ive­ness.

Paradoxes & Contra­dictory Activities

Paradoxes exist when seemingly contra­dictory activities operate together. We experience paradoxes in daily life as captured by the popular phrases: tough love, do more with less, oil and vinegar, sweet and sour, work/ life balance, Catch 22, go slow to go fast, good and evil, and so forth. When these inherent contra­dic­tions work together, success follows. Instead of focusing on either/ or, paradoxes emphasize and/also thinking. Business paradoxes include short term and long term, top/down and bottom/up, inside and outside, domestic and global, individual and team, profit­ability and well-b­eing, etc. Navigating paradox means learning to adapt rather than managing paradox which focuses on finding a solution

Why Paradoxes Matter

The world is changing so quickly that what was right yesterday is not right today and will not be right tomorrow. An organi­zat­ion’s success comes from its ability to adjust to change, which is often referred to as agility, flexib­ility, learning, transf­orm­ation, revita­liz­ation, and so forth.

Increasing organi­zat­ional adapta­bility comes from navigating paradox. Navigating paradox accepts and heightens disagr­eements that enable organi­zations to change and evolve. Without the tensions that come from parado­xical thinking and debates, organi­zations perpetuate the status quo and do not respond to change. Leaders of these organi­zations need to become paradox navigators to help their organi­zations respond to the pace of change

Five Core Domains for Effective Leadership

Strate­gist: Leaders have a point of view about the future; where to play and how to win.
Executor: Leaders get things done through individual behaviors and instit­utional processes.
Talent manager: Leaders encourage employee produc­tivity through compet­ence, commit­ment, and contri­bution.
Human capital developer: Leaders prepare the next generation of leadership through coaching, mentoring, and workforce planning
Personal profic­iency: Leaders have the personal requir­ements to build trust and confid­ence.

Paradox Navigation

The Skills Needed to Navigate a Pardox

1. Deal with cognitive comple­xity. They are able to see different sides of an issue, respect someone else’s point of view, and learn new ideas (generally 20 to 25 percent new ideas every two years
2. Be socially endearing. They disagree without being disagr­eeable, allow for tension without having conten­tion, listen with empathy, and help others feel better about themselves after a meeting
3. Be socially connected. They spend time with others not like them and observe and learn from others not in their immediate community.
4. Be personally aware. They know their predis­pos­itions, but are not bound by them and judge themselves less by their intent and more by how their behavior is seen by others
5. Encourage divergence and conver­gence. They encourage diversity of thinking if their team or organi­zation tends to groupthink and encourage focus if their team or organi­zation has too much diversity and no closure.
6. Have a growth mindset. They take risks to experiment and try new things, constantly learn from what worked and what did not, and are resilient when things do not work.
7. Zoom out and zoom in. They establish a vision and overall purpose, and envision systems and how to fold the future vision into today’s actions.
These paradox navigation skills can be acquired or improved through training and experi­ence.