Paradox Leadership

Paradox Leadership

How to handle paradoxes and benefit from the inherent conflicts and tensions


Wednesday 20 March 2024, 1pm — 2.30pm

About the talk

The paradoxes of human existence have been studied for millennia in areas such as life and death, self and other, and self-sufficiency and dependence. The constant changing conditions cause contradictions to appear as ordinary conditions in organisational life and might even have become the ‘new normal’ in an unpredictable everchanging organisational environment. 

Paradoxes are relevant in unpredictable and changing environments which appear to be the prevailing condition in the 21st century. The complex nature of paradoxes mean that leaders and followers encounter contradictory yet interrelated requirements. Tension and conflicts may lead to either virtuous or vicious cycles of progress or decline. 

It is difficult and uncomfortable to be in tension and conflicts. However since it is not possible to meet in the middle or somewhere else between the two extremes — paradoxes have to be straddled. If a leader cannot endure tensions and conflicts, then paradoxes often lead to split with destructive consequences.

Leaders and managers have for many years been told that conflicts are causing trouble, so they may have tried to avoid, hide, or resolve them. But the very job of leading is one of constant negotiation. Thus, conflict represents a core dimension of managing interpersonal relations at work.

Tension is the other inherent part of paradoxes. The Danish word for tension is the same as voltage. 

As an engineer I know that when I can tap into tension (voltage) it can release energy and my life can be enhanced – we only have to think about all the appliances that makes our life more comfortable and the machines that produce products that improve life. However, if I am not careful when I tap into the tension, I might get a shock and in worst case even die. 

Leaders need to learn how to manage conflicts and tension for the benefit of the organisation, themselves, and the followers.

About Carsten Lind

Carsten Lind is currently doing a PhD. at Warwick Business School studying leadership of Danish Free Churches (non-state) using psychoanalytically based methods with the aim of finding approaches to help leaders lead well. 

Carsten is 57 years old, married and has three adult children. He trained as an engineer as he early on learned only to trust facts and that emotions could be dangerous. 

For a few years he worked as marine engineer on merchant ships, intertwined with time traveling Australia, South-East Asia, and South America. With his Swiss wife Monika, he has lived and worked in Switzerland and Kenya. Returning to Denmark in 1997 he worked with sales, consulting engineering, R&D, and in Facility Management. 

While doing a diploma in project management, Carsten stumbled upon systems psychodynamics which started to provide answers to family dynamics. Therefore, he pursued a masters in the psychology of organisations. 

A couple of years later he enrolled in the PhD. program at Warwick Business School with the aim of studying the leadership of volunteers in churches. Coming from a conflict-shy family it was quite a surprise , and rather anxiety-provoking that the data was full of conflicts, although they were avoided and enacted. 

Analyzing the data, searching literature, writing about conflicts, and participating in GRCs has helped Carsten understand that conflicts are neither bad nor good but that the manner they are handled leads to good or bad outcome.

Fun fact: Carsten tries to get his hair cut in all the nations he visits, and he has a world map with pins indicating where this has happened. So far his hair has been cut in 24 countries and in two great oceans. The worst was in Ireland after which he looked as if he was about to join the army and the most fun (at least for his wife) was in Jordan.

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