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Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable: The Paradoxes of Leadership

by | Mar 1, 2022 | Articles

Before the pandemic changed the way we live, we used to accept that leaders could be either powerful strategists or great at execution. This is no longer the case. Companies are now expecting their leaders to be both.

It’s a leadership paradox, and it’s a skill every leader needs to master.

Here’s why.

In recent years, you’ve had to break the traditional ways of working to adapt to the sudden changes brought about by COVID-19.

Not only did you deal with changes impacting the workplace, you also dealt with challenges affecting the humans in your organisation.

For example, are you a leader who loves building connections in person? With the current state of play being digital connection, perhaps you’re forced to engage with others through a Zoom interaction. It goes against what you normally do, and it’s reducing your ability to build trust and professional networks.

This brings us to this critical point: it’s not enough to adapt the way we work — the way we lead people also needs to evolve so we show up with relevance.

So how can you, as a leader, meet the dynamic needs of individuals? How do you identify the skills you need? How do you stay energised, lead, and keep teams engaged?

PwC examines six paradoxes that leaders need to navigate and balance in order to lead effectively in today’s world. A paradox, according to PwC, involves “contradictory-yet-interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time.” By getting comfortable with the paradoxical nature of leadership, you’ll be able to build critical future-proof skills and differentiate yourself as a leader.

The six paradoxes are:

  1. Globally-minded localist. Be both deeply embedded in the local market and seamlessly connected across the globe at the same time.
  2. Strategic executor. Be strategic, solve today’s problems with tomorrow in mind, and execute effectively.
  3. High-integrity politician. Navigate the politics of driving change in your organisation without losing your integrity and character.
  4. Tech-savvy humanist. Be able to drive technological advancements without sacrificing your focus on your people.
  5. Humble hero. Act confidently and competently in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment with the humility to recognise when you need help and when you are wrong.
  6. Traditioned innovator. Have the ability to respect and learn from the past and use it to propel the organisation and your team forward into the future, all while creating a culture that does not fear failure but cultivates learning and growth.

    So how do we build these paradoxes into skills?

    Do you know your own drivers, strengths and opportunities? Identify where you can flex and where you may need support.

    Leaders who have a sound understanding of their emotions, motivations, drives, and needs, are more effective — it’s been proven by countless studies.

    Here’s a helpful checklist to help you.

    Make a bigger impact by using your strengths and spending your time doing things at which you excel. Whether it’s influencing others or networking or problem-solving — make sure to develop a plan on how you can make the most of your strengths in your organisation.

    Awareness of the gaps in skills will help you and your organisation create meaningful strategy and growth opportunities. Create an action plan for both training and hiring for the most crucial gaps in your organisation or your team.

    To ensure buy-in, think about why it’s important for individuals to improve their skills, the best ways to close the skills gap, and the support needed to complete this initiative.

    Ask yourself: How can you leverage the strengths of the people around you?

    An article from Harvard Business Review recommends identifying new roles in order for your organisation to remain relevant, hiring the right people who can challenge traditional thinking, and focusing your efforts on propelling the organisation forward and not just putting out fires.

    Learn how to embrace and navigate the tensions that exist in the paradoxes listed above. By getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, you’re more able to be flexible under pressure and find creative ways to meet seemingly impossible demands.

    We’re living in a time where everything is changing so fast, and the world is expecting a lot from leaders like you. Now, more than ever, your organisation needs leaders who can stand up and lead confidently.

    Learn more about these paradoxes, know what your strengths are across the six, and plan how you can improve on the others.

    Now, this might all sound overwhelming, but you do not need to do all the work yourself. If you need support so you can lead your pack with confidence, reach out to Red Wolf Group today.