The paradox of leadership

You are perfectly aligned with your organisation’s motives. The people in your team are self-motivated and high-performing. They too are aligned with you and contribute to the organisation's objectives. This rather romantic description of the perfect dynamic in the workplace may probably clash with what you have seen so far.

Don’t get me wrong - it is possible that managers’ individual drives are aligned with those of the organisations, and that people can be self-motivated and fully engaged. However, in reality, 99 cases out of 100, there is always tension between the manager’s needs and motives and those of the organisation, and, even more immediately, between managers and those individuals or groups whom they are seeking to influence.

These potential conflict between managers’ and organisational needs is known as leadership paradox. Here are some examples of personal and organisational paradox:

  • personal need/drive
  • organisational need/drive
  • demonstrate the ability to understand and motivate others
  • get tasks done and produce results
  • establish a better work-life balance
  • find and keep highly committed people
  • draw on the ability to network and develop relationships
  • promote those who can think strategically
  • make a difference in other people’s lives
  • increase market share and profitability
  • express passion about environmental issues
  • profit comes first - just keep on the right side of the environment lobbies

I am sure you have experienced some of the above paradoxes where personal and organisational needs seem to be at the opposite poles. How can you understand people and their issues and, at the same time, get the task done and produce results? How can you establish a better work-life balance and, at the same time, keep people highly committed?

Your challenge

Your challenge as a leader is to find a way to sustain this paradox and find ways to match personal and organisational needs without sacrificing yours, your team’s, and those of the organisation.

How does this translate into reality?

Of course, it is not easy, and undoubtedly it requires a lot of effort to be able to reach this condition, however, it is possible with patience and good planning. One of the main things you need to work on is yourself. For example, if you have a fear to fail or to show your vulnerability that originated from your unresolved past issues, this will inevitably have an impact in the way you manage or lead. In this type of scenario, the message you send out is 'this is me, take it or leave it', with no minimal accommodation of your needs to those of your organisation.

This type of leadership is defined as defiant leadership, defiant because you ignore the impact that you may have on others. In addition, this type of leadership is perceived as controlling and tends to evoke competitiveness, resistance and voluntary creativity and excellence in others. On the other hand, if you focus your efforts only on developing skills and competencies required by your organisation at the expense of your natural styles and qualities, you definitely end up becoming 'a safe pair of hands', perfectly attuned to the needs of the organisation. Nevertheless, the suppression of your needs and preferences could result in a kind of competent blandness, manifesting as a failure to motivate others or a lack of imagination approaching new problems.

So what?

As I have mentioned above, the most effective way to arise out of the paradox of leadership is to match both yours and your organisation’s needs so that neither of the two parts are sacrificed. As a leader, it is imperative that you find a way of 'being' which is in harmony with your beliefs and values but also with those of your organisation. In other words, you need to be authentic, hence the name of this leadership style - 'authentic leadership'. It is worth mentioning that authentic leadership does not imply any compromising where neither personal nor organisational goals or needs are fully met or satisfied, but rather shaping new possibilities for both individuals and the organisation.

Developing authentic leadership

In order to support individual and organisational development, you as a manager must acquire all those capabilities and skills to perform your role, which include communication skills, team management skills, and business knowledge. For example, if you want to demonstrate effective communication skills or handle conflict as part of team management, you must be able to manage your own emotions. If you want to influence the strategic direction of the organisation, then you must be able to understand others and manage relationships effectively.

I hope that this article will help you as a manager to catch the vision of what type of leader you should become, capable of exerting influence as you seek to meet both personal and organisational challenges. As I mentioned above, you need to begin working on yourself by developing self-awareness and acquiring all the skills and competencies that will help you become an authentic leader capable of achieving success for yourself, people, and the organisation.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Fabrizio Ricciardi Life & Executive Coach

I am a Life and Leadership Coach based in London with long experience in managerial roles. My aim and passion is to help people, leadership and organisations to facilitate change and find solutions in order to achieve their goals and objectives find happiness and satisfaction.… Read more

Written by Fabrizio Ricciardi Life & Executive Coach

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