Future Fit # 17: On becoming an adaptive leader: The paradox dilemma

TomorrowToday has promised to help you start the journey towards being future fit – to becoming an adaptive leader. Being merely a ‘good leader’ will not suffice when it comes to meeting the challenge of the future. You will need to be a great leader and a ‘great leader’ is someone who understanding and practices adaptive leadership. This is part of a ‘boot camp’ through which we help you begin the journey of becoming future fit; we help you in the process of becoming an adaptive leader. Each ‘session’ is designed around a thought-bullet (Head) and an action point (Hand) – something to think about and something to try out. We have promised to keep the ‘head’ part to under a minute and the practical part (hand)…well, that is up to you.

Future Fit # 17:  The paradox dilemma

Head:
F. Scott Fitzgerald said that, “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. Paradox is the operating norm for contemporary leaders. Paradox is the head-on collision between ‘right and right’. It can be in the form of culture, generational, gender, personal and structural. As a leader you will increasingly find yourself dealing with situations that are paradoxical. By definition paradox cannot be resolved – they can only be understood. The smart leader recognises the need to build ‘frameworks of understanding’; frameworks that give you access to insights into the paradox being experienced. Trying to resolve paradox means a waste of energy and time and usually it is resolved in favour of he or she who ‘wins the arm wrestle’ – a situation that seldom procures the desired outcomes.  Identifying and acknowledging a situation as paradoxical is the first step; the second step is applying a framework for understanding the paradox being played out. This becomes essential work for adaptive leaders. You will need to be committed (to action) but always remain open to the possibility that an alternative exists. This is no easy balance for any leader!

Hands:
Think about some recent situations that you have had to lead through: were any of these situations paradoxical in nature? If so, how did you handle them? Was the paradoxical nature or element recognised? If not, had it been recognised, how might that have changed the way in which it was dealt with? Look at your current agenda and try to identify any paradox that might be hidden within the approaches being taken. Identify the nature of the paradox and then invite suggestions as to what frameworks might be helpful in understanding that paradox. Get your team involved in this work. TomorrowToday’s keynote, Mind the Gap (a framework we have shared in over 44 countries) would be a good example of a framework that provides significant insights into generational paradox.  Examples inherent in generational paradox would include things such as how we connect, communicate, learn, deal with information, life-work balance, incentives, respect and use of technology.




Index of Adaptive Leader series
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