Leadership in a COVID-19 World: Navigating “Fields of Paradox”

Turbulence Takes a Toll

The acceleration of COVID-19, the speed and intensity of change, the current economic terrain, and the pressure to innovate, adapt, stabilize, and address each new challenge (of which there are many) with focus, grace, empathy, and precision is no doubt taking a toll on all of today’s business leaders. 

The current state of affairs reminded us of an interview with Gianpiero Petriglieri, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, who provides insights into the implications of turbulent times on leadership. 

“Whatever sector or industry you look at, we face enormous uncertainty and anxiety. Leaders operate under an increasing amount of pressure and great visibility. They are called on to provide predictability, at the same to spark leaps of innovation; to be resolute and inclusive; to have a firm point of view, yet to also take into account a plurality of constituencies; to be self-confident and question themselves at the same time.”

“Fields of Paradox”  

Professor Petriglieri refers to this tension between resolution and plurality as a “field of paradox”. And to prevail in this turbulent environment, leaders need to operate mindfully, effectively, and responsibly.

For many (if not most) leaders, this signals a significant change in their normal approach to leadership. It pulls leaders out of their isolation and forces them to rethink their leadership intents, attitudes and behaviors. It prompts leaders to translate their personal vision, purpose, and ambition to a new language and behavior that up-levels empathy and compassion,  ensures relevance, and truly responds to the concerns of others.  

Finding Solid Ground: It’s Universal

Remember that everyone–your customers, employees, partners, suppliers, investors, and even your own friends and family–are also caught up in their own “fields of paradox”. Feeling both fear and love, anxiety and calm, uncertainty and hope, loneliness and community, distance and closeness. This means the people that you need to reach are seeking out, choosing, and gravitating towards the ideas, people, products, and businesses that will help them navigate these daily paradoxes. 

The leadership challenge becomes how to meet people where they are, wherever they are. This requires an unparalleled level of empathy and ability to understand the contradictory emotional states of your employees, customers, and business partners. 

Toward a Meaningful Position

As a discipline, Emotive Branding, our proprietary methodology, seeks to move businesses to a new meaningful position from which their beliefs and offerings more closely align with what people are seeking–both emotionally and rationally. For any leader today looking to “rethink” and “translate” their personal vision, purpose, and ambition to better resonate in today’s status quo, please reach out with questions. 

Read my full interview with Gianpiero Petriglieri here.

Please reach out if you want guidance on how to rearticulate your leadership vision during this time. 

Emotive Brand is an Oakland based brand strategy and design agency. 

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