Leader decision making is an important topic that affects all organizational leaders. Leaders are often faced with unique challenges that test their abilities to manage diverse teams and situations. They are forced to make hard choices involving satisfying the needs of the organization and those of the employees, which can sometimes cause conflict.
For example, supervisors may want to treat all their employees equally, but also find ways to identify and fast-track high potential employees without showing favoritism. Or perhaps leaders want to increase morale by having interpersonal relationships with their staff, but worry that too much friendliness will make employees lose respect for them or their position. Supervisors may always want to allow staff to be autonomous in the work they do, but must also ensure they maintain a level of productivity in order to meet and exceed organizational standards.
WESTERN VERSUS EASTERN APPROACHES
Generally when we thinking of conflicting values, the typical assumption is that leaders must decide on one or the other. For example, we may assume that leaders must sacrifice interpersonal relationships to maintain compliance or restrict autonomy to guarantee all assignments are completed in a timely manner.
The authors of this study (Zhang, Waldman, Han, & Li, 2015) propose that taking this stance is detrimental to organizational development and does not allow for the needs of the company and its employees to be met effectively. These sorts of paradoxes happen within all organizations.
The article suggests that Western philosophy uses an “either-or” stance when dealing with seemingly conflicting stances or paradoxes. Namely, leaders are forced to choose between two seemingly conflicting choices. However, the authors believe that leaders should use more of an Eastern philosophy “both-and,” or yin-yang style, when addressing organizational challenges. They decided to research paradoxical leader behaviors, which refers to how leaders manage situations that appear to be separate but are actually interrelated.
RESULTS OF PARADOXICAL LEADER BEHAVIOR
The authors found that there are several aspects that encompass paradoxical leader behavior, which include the ability to think about situations holistically and being able to think of and integrate multiple complex issues or outcomes. Through this outside the box thinking, leaders are able to appease both the organization and the employees.
It is important for managers and leaders in organizations to rethink how they view contradicting work problems that seemingly can’t exist together to see how they are actually connected. Organizations will be more proficient if they widen their scope and find ways to address staff needs while simultaneously balancing conflicting organizational functions. Additionally, if leaders are able to think more fluidly about dilemmas and complex situations, it will only help to increase how quickly an organization can adapt to deal with rapid organizational change.
Zhang, Y., Waldman, D. A., Han, Y.-L., & Li, X.-B. (2015). Paradoxical Leader Behaviors in People Management: Antecedents and Consequences. Academy of Management Journal, 58(2), 538–566.