Quote of the Week: Creating New Choices

Roger Martin, Dean at the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto, gave an interesting presentation at the Opening Plenary at the Skoll World Forum today:

Whether or not Barack Obama is your President or, as is the case for me, another country’s leader, most of you, I suspect, watched the President’s inauguration speech and did so with rapt attention. It was certainly a lovely, inspiring and motivating speech. I cried a few times, even though guys aren’t supposed to do that. I suspect each listener took away something special and unique to you from the speech. For me, one sentence grabbed my attention; that riveted me:

“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

I study and write about leadership, which of course makes it a privilege for me to be among all the great leaders in this room. And in my study of highly successful leaders across a wide variety of organizations, I found the most common theme – the most universal characteristic – to be a form of thinking exemplified by President Obama’s quote.

That common theme was when highly successful leaders are faced with an apparent choice between two opposing and unsatisfying options, they show the inclination to refuse to choose and the capacity to instead engineer a course of action that is superior to each of the apparent options.

...In my work, I found that great leaders harness the inherent power in the tension between opposing ideas, options or models to forge a new better model. That is the Power of Paradox.

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