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Paradoxes for leaders who think strategically

​Paradoxical thinking helps us to work with seeming opposites at the same time. This enables and energises a system (organisations) to perform at a higher level. Here are some more paradoxes related to strategic thinking which leaders encounter daily:


  • The opposite of a profound truth is also true
    An example - energy acts like a wave and a particle. Another's view is as valid as your own. Leaders are likely to treat paradoxes as contradictions, i.e. we act either on one side of a paradox or the other. When we do this we lose the power inherent in the paradox.
  • It is about the bottom line and the people
    Leaders are discovering this truth every day in their working environments — taking care of business means taking care of people. More than ever before, our business success depends on developing successful people. Strategy is about the bottom line and its drivers (customers, processes, employees and other resources).
  • Use the soft to shape the hard
    Water-cutting machines are used for precision cutting. They slice through any mate¬rial (including six inches of titanium) without leaving any burrs, or rough edges. This is why soft strategy work in the form of relationship building, team dynamics coaching and stakeholder management is so important.
  • Your problem is my problem
    This paradox lies at the root of all companies that excel at customer service. Customers need to be the central concern of all strategy work.
  • To get people to listen to you, listen to
    Don't just talk — listen and question. Understanding others is the way to get them to understand you. Successful strategy is never prepared by the few and then foisted on the many.
  • Nothing is as invisible as the obvious
    James Watt got the idea of the steam engine by watching steam escape from his kettle, something countless people had done before him. Researchers knew all along that penicillin mould inhibited the growth of bacteria, but Alexander Fleming used it to inhibit the growth of bacteria inside the human body.


In strategy work we often overlook the obvious.

Source: Ungerer, M, Pretorius, M & Herholdt, J 2011. Viable Business Strategies: A Fieldbook for Leaders. Randburg: Knowres Publishing.

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