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Leaders! How You Can Stop Worrying and Love the Paradox

Updated: May 11, 2021

Leadership Paradox

Man stuck in a paradox, instructed to go two different ways
You can't go both ways

Leaders make decisions, followers complete tasks. If you are or have been a manager, CEO, or an executive, chances are you've encountered situations in business that are contradictory and paradoxical. The decisions you've had to make seem torn between two different and conflicting set of ideals. This cognitive dissonance eventually makes its way down to the people you are supposed to lead, making them baffled, unhappy, and ultimately unproductive.

I need to cut costs while also investing in the future.

I have to look out for Numero Uno while also playing nice and being fair to others.

I'm expected to be authentic & personable while also being pragmatic & professional.

The principles often espoused by business guru's and leadership consultants are usually sound by themselves. But, what tends to be the case is that helpful business advice contains it's own logical opposite that is just as true.

  • Yes, it is a good idea to work harder than your peers, burning the midnight oil and work into the night.

  • Yet, it is also a good idea to get good rest, adequate sleep, and leisure time so that productivity goes up.6

Paradoxes in leadership arise when we are unable to resolve conflicting ideals that are seemingly incompatible or contradictory. In executive and business coaching, coaches will inevitably have clients whose goals are to resolve the paradoxes that leadership produces. It will be your job to help them navigate these paradoxes so that they can realize that there are not only solutions but opportunities for growth.

For March CLCI Live's fourth week of Duality, we explore Paradoxes in Leadership & Coaching with Lisa Finck (A.C.C.), Brooke Adair Walters (M.C.P.C.), Jerome LeDuff Jr (M.C.L.C.), Daniel Olexa (P.C.C), and Anthony Lopez (M.C.L.C) and talk about our favorite paradoxes, how they arise in leadership, and the ways in which they are resolved.

Without going into too much detail, there are multiple types of paradoxes out there that are often confused with each other. We will simplify our paradoxes into a single category and then compare them to the problems that arise in Leadership.

The Paradoxes You Should Fear

Antinomies. These are the paradoxes that will leave you puzzled and ultimately unclear as to what to make of them. These deal with the 3 L's (Laws, Logic, and Language). Some famous examples include:

  • This sentence is false.

  • There are no Absolutes.

  • Is the answer to this question "No"?

  • Does a "list of all lists that do not contain themselves" include itself?

Try not to get stuck on these for too long. Whats important to understand is that leaders can often believe the paradoxes they encounter are "laws" that are absolute and cannot be resolved.

Thankfully, these types paradoxes are almost never encountered in the coaching sphere. Your client's will struggle with principles, ideals, and values that appear to contradict each other. In reality, what seems to be a paradox is actually a process that, in the end, promotes growth and radical new ways of thinking.

Your Paradox is a Possibility

If you encounter a paradox as a leader. You are doing something right.

A team trying to find new solutions to paradoxes
Exploring the Paradox-ibilities

Imagine a scenario where someone doesn't even recognize there is a paradox to begin with. This is how you end up with anxiety-ridden micromanagers, ego maniacal supervisors, and executives who either bleed money or fail to use the capital they have.

Recognizing that you are in a paradoxical situation is the recognition that there are options. Options that are not mutually exclusive.

Ivanka Novakovic (ACC) of Business Coaching wrote an article on The paradoxical leadership & coaching in increased complexity. She makes the argument that leaders and companies can not only manage paradoxes but...

"capitalize on the inherent tensions between the two poles. You get the benefits of both and the synergies between them."

This mindset demonstrates The Power of "Both-And Thinking, an article written by Michelle L Buck Ph.D. where embracing paradox can lead to unity and a deeper understanding of the world around you.

How can we as coaches turn our client's apparent paradox into an opportunity? How can two seemingly opposing ideals reinforce one goal?

The Coaching Dialectic

Inspired by the philosophy of the Hegelian Dialectic, the coaching dialectic recognizes that the strategies we use and the idea's we employ can always contain its own paradox/antithesis.

In this exercise, the client is encouraged to:

  1. State the goal and/or value they are trying to achieve.

  2. Discuss the steps or strategy they can use to realize this potential.

  3. Identify a contradictory strategy (the paradox) that is equally true and valuable.

  4. Synthesize the two into a new idea that incorporates the truth that resides in the paradox.

Here is an example of what this process would look like in a real coaching environment.

Example of the Coaching Dialectic used in coaching

Not all paradoxes are created equal and by using this method and keeping an open mind, they can be resolved and produce creative new ideas that will serve to enhance your leadership.

To download this coaching tool, click the link below!


#CLCIHowTo Challenge Reminder!

Our challenge has been extended to March 30th!

Throughout the month of March, CLCI LIVE is going to be live streaming and recording How-To videos based on topics coaches like you have submitted.

Want to learn how to find your niche, create video content, use streaming platforms, how to price unapologetically, and more? Then be sure to participate and follow us on Facebook & Youtube to stay tuned!

In addition to this, the more you interact, the more likely you are to win a $490 Restream Professional Subscription

Through Restream, you can multiply your views and simultaneously stream your content to multiple platforms. This includes Twitter, Youtube, Twitch, Facebook, and so much more!

We are raffling off 3 winners who interact with our How-To videos the most! How to interact?

1 entrant = Like

2 entrants = Comment

3 entrants = @mention/challenge a friend

5 entrants = Share

10 entrants = How-To video with #clcihowto

Our challenge to you is to watch, share, and make your own How-To videos to spread your knowledge. Record a video of yourself teaching people how to do ANY skill with #clcihowto.


Thank you,

Lisa Finck, Brooke Adair Walters, Jerome LeDuff Jr., Daniel Olexa, and Anthony Lopez

Join us every Tuesday at 4 pm PST/7 PM EST for our CLCI Live Facebook Demos.

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1 Comment

Above and beyond! Great article.

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