Leaders and the Dilemma of Paradox

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Mike Armour is a featured headliner on C-Suite Radio

You've likely never heard of paradox management. It's not a term you come across in management texts. But leaders routinely confront the dilemma of paradox in their corporate culture. And these paradoxes can neither be ignored nor eliminated. They have to be managed adroitly.

A paradox presents the leader with two choices which seem to be mutually exclusive. Doing one precludes the ability to do the other. But while this appears to be an either-or choice, the corporate culture and its circumstances demand that the leader opt for both choices. Rather than treating the choice as an either-or matter, the leader must address it with a both-and solution.

To do so, the leader must find a balance point which adequately serves the interests of both choices. Yet both choices are likely to have loyal advocates who disagree with the balance point. They will hold that the choice which they advocate should be given greater weight.

Thus, paradoxes create an inherent tension within a corporate culture. Leadership must prevent this tension from devolving into partisanship or even conflict. The skill to do that is what I call "paradox management." And it's the theme I pursue in this episode.