The many new paradoxes facing leaders today

Life as we know it is temporarily on hold as the coronavirus pandemic calls for new ways of going about daily life and business.

Patrick Marr - The FA Webinar

‘Work’ probably looks and feels very different for many of us right now, with ‘working from home’ being the new norm. I was chatting about this on a webinar I took part in last week with The FA for 30 Level 5 Technical Directors on the theme of Being At Your Best When Working From Home. I hope the guys got something useful out of the session – some great insights were shared around what is just one of many new challenges these football leaders are facing and working through with their teams.

As Michaela wrote about in this blog, leaders are the people we naturally look to for guidance in periods of uncertainty. She touched on ‘Leaders as Sensemakers’ in a world where there is no past experience for leaders to take their own guidance from.

This ability – and need – for a leader to come up with a new map for a shifting landscape is fundamental to our Point of View of Leadership. As is Embracing Paradox, something I’ve been mulling over this past week.

Leaders face paradoxes every day – it comes with the role. They need to know their people and keep a respectable distance; have a plan and be agile; be strategic and know the detail; be firm and clear, and gentle and understanding. The list goes on. New leaders often find this a challenge and need support to develop their own authentic leadership style.

This significant shift in context for leaders has an unknown end date and brings new paradoxes into the mix. I can see how leaders need to be positive and realistic with their teams (no ducking of crucial conversations), especially in hard-hit sectors such as travel & tourism, hospitality and leisure. And where organisations are still open for business, leaders need to look to the future and push forward with projects and make sure every single employee is kept safe and well at the same time.

We’re embracing new paradoxes at Leading Edge, too. We want to stay close to our clients in these uncertain times – many are friends, people we have deep relationships with. But we will also give clients the space they need to work out what the next few months could look like and what this might mean for their business and their work with us.

There will be opportunities, as well. And leaders need to strike the balance between identifying any opportunities while absolutely not forgetting to acknowledge and empathise with people’s natural fears.

We may need to keep our distance socially, but we’re lucky to have access to so many virtual technologies that let us see each other and be that visual support. Let’s keep that going!

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