We’ve noticed that a number of our clients have wrestling with what feels like impossible problems. Leadership dilemmas. And there are no easy solution to these paradoxes. In fact, looking for a ‘solution’ in itself can be counter productive. My friend and colleague Peter Koestenbaum has seven steps for navigating such dilemmas.
1. Do not rationalise but feel the pain.
Don’t hide, run or deny. Neither intellectualise and escape into your ‘head’, or busy yourself with manic activity, but embrace the experience.
2. Polarities need each other.
It’s the genius of the AND. Do we need great team work or outstanding personal responsibility? The answer is YES-to both. These are polarities. And there are many more. Organisations often fail by emphasising one polarity to the exclusion of the other, sometimes at great cost.
3. Alternation beats prioritising.
Know which polarity, and which side (upside/downside) needs the most attention RIGHT NOW, and be flexible. Know that another element may need more attention tomorrow, next week, next month.
4. There is power in dialogue.
Dia-logos: through meaning. If you stay in your head, you are subject to your own self deception and blind spots. Get a coach. Find a mentor. Develop trusting relationships in your team. Engage in dialogue, genuinely listening, exploring with depth with others. New solutions will emerge.
5. Paradoxes provoke the mind to breakthroughs.
You can only ‘solve’ paradoxes with a step change in attitude and commitment. Move from negative evaluation of the situation to positive. From lethargy to energy. A decision-a breakthrough. Learning to leverage polarities is the KEY leadership skill for moving from problem solving to transformation. Leadership 2.0.
6. Each choice changes your environment.
When I begin to exercise my own free will and chose to approach, or interact with people differently, that changes things, and generates more possibility and further choices.
7. Practice democracy.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but this is a vital element. Democracy requires us to navigate real challenges together. To embrace diversity. To listen, learn, compromise, generate new solutions and approaches. So seek to engage people, draw from people who think differently from you.
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