A most ingenious paradox

A most ingenious paradox

I was watching Pirates of Penzance recently (I’m in lockdown after all) and this paradoxical little ditty caught my eye.

You know the one – the paradox of a leap-year baby being both 5 and 25 years old at the same time?

Kevin Kline does a marvellous job of exploring what a brain-strain that is, but he’s just a singing pirate. What would he know?

Leaders now – they really do know.  If you’ve been in leadership for the past few years you’ll know that the concept of ‘two opposing facts being both true’ has become quite common.

And having to make a decision in the full knowledge that ‘what-ever you choose must logically be both wrong and right‘ has also become frustratingly standard.

Wait, what?

It’s true.  Leaders are asked to operate in a paradoxical state almost all the time.

  • Have an opinion, but be open-minded
  • Be confident and humble 
  • Direct yet tactful
  • Logical and intuitive
  • Disciplined and adaptive 
  • Risk-taking with risk management
  • Decisive yet consultative
  • Optimistic and pessimistic

No wonder it feels tricky some days. What a massive strain on the brain.

It also got me thinking about my feelings around lockdown 6.0  (which is why I was watching Gilbert + Sullivan in the first place). 

They’re paradoxical too! 

  • Both agitated and resigned to circumstance 
  • Both pissed-off and optimistic

No wonder it feels so tricky.

A most ingenious paradox indeed.

Exciting Stuff

Your 1st 90 Days – Hi-impact in hard lock-down

In the next few weeks, I’ll be announcing a limited release masterclass for leaders who are moving jobs during lockdown and want to turn that from a disadvantage into an advantage.

The workshop will give you:

  • a clear plan to identify your goals and pitfalls from day one
  • the confidence and clarity to focus your attention on items that matter most
  • transform your ability to set both strategy and boundaries quickly

All within the context of remote onboarding.

It might be confronting to realise how many mistakes you were about to make by focusing on the wrong activities.

If you’d like to be notified when it launches, please drop me a note here.


Rebecca is Australia’s pre-eminent advocate for B-suite leadership – the expert in developing hi-impact B-Suite leadership at both a team and individual level.

Speak to Rebecca about:

  • Individual and group coaching
  • Team effectiveness and training
  • People & Culture Advisory

You can reach her on rebecca.houghton@boldhr.com.au

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