Why Paradoxical Leadership is important in a Crisis!

"Your actions speak so loud, I cannot hear what you are saying.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.
When a crisis such as the coronavirus happens people look to their Leaders for answers and direction. In a recent McKinsey article they promote 5 Leadership practices that can help leaders respond. Many of these practices highlight the importance of Paradoxical Leadership skills. 
Whilst I’m sure the intention of the article is positive (or, perhaps, just commercial?!) and there’s nothing wrong with their logic, the authors do seem to assume that there’s some behavioural magic wand out there! Practices, by definition, require practice. 
Ask anyone who’s trying to stop touching their face and they’ll tell you that behaviour change is not immediate. Whilst it’s probably too late for most Leaders during this crisis, it struck me that Paradoxical Leadership skills would make a big difference to the effectiveness of how Leaders respond to any crisis. 

Definition of a Paradox

A Paradox can be defined as a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory but in reality expresses a possible truth. Commonplace examples are such expressions as ‘less is more’, 'cruel to be kind’, etc.

Paradoxical Balance

Many of the excellent books written about Paradoxical Leadership identify key paradoxes that Leaders grapple with. The examples given are largely external factors e.g. control costs and grow the business, short-term vs long-term, flexibility vs stability, etc. 
However, it’s not easy to deal with external paradoxes if you’re internally and behaviourally out of balance - if you don’t have sufficient Paradoxical Balance. From a behavioural point of view a Paradox can be defined as two traits that may appear to be opposites, but are in fact, synergistic.
One thing that stood out for me in the McKinsey article is the importance of character in our Leaders. David Jensen, in his book “The Executive’s Paradox”, emphasises that “to lead well you need to know yourself well and understand how others see you.” 
Leaders who understand their Paradoxical strengths and blind spots (including their potential behaviour under stress), along with those of their colleagues, can use this awareness to produce a more balanced response in times of crisis. It’s not easy to be balanced on all 12 Paradoxes (see below). However, thanks to the Harrison Team Paradox graph a Leadership team as a whole can ensure that it has the necessary Paradoxical Balance. One leading CEO swears by the Harrison Paradoxes™. Watch here… 

Paradox Coaching

As a Professional Coach, this type of awareness serves as a gift to your Leadership clients. At a time of crisis, reviewing Paradoxical Balances and Imbalances in your coaching sessions could be a game changer for many Leaders. 
The Harrison Paradoxes™, as developed by leading psychologist Dr Dan Harrison, work as a complete and holistic system. Not only can we see the balance in each Paradox but, a trained Paradox Coach can help clients recognise unhelpful behavioural patterns that may be affecting their effectiveness as a Leader. Download the White Paper below to get a powerful example of how Leadership behaviours contribute to poor performance. 
For practical purposes the Harrison Paradoxes™ are represented graphically on a flat surface. The graphic below* shows the 12 Paradoxes and what they cover. They’re organised into a range of Influences (vertical) and Stages of Action (horizontal), which makes them easy to understand. 
With just a brief read of the Paradox descriptions and a reflection on our current coronavirus situation, you can easily see why you’d want your Leaders to be as balanced as possible across their 12 Paradoxes. 
In subsequent posts I will expand upon these Paradoxes. If you’re a Professional Coach you can also check out our Accreditation Training that you can begin at any time. 
To learn more about Paradoxical Patterns, download the White Paper “Self-Defeating Behaviours that Kill Good Work”
*This graphic is not the actual Harrison Paradox™ graph. Please contact us for a demonstration or join one of our frequent Webinars.

Self-Defeating Behaviours that Kill Good Work!

Learn how Paradoxical Leadership patterns influence performance


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