Paradoxes in the Executive Life

May 14, 2018

All organizations consider themselves unique. And, in fact, in the perspective of the social construction inherent to their constitution and their development, they are really unique.

But not for this reason, other organizations really present exclusive characteristics in comparison to many others in different moments and places. The organizational phenomena is, therefore, the result of the tension between the own dynamics inserted in the common context and the successive cycles experienced by the humanity in its low creativity in producing problems to be solved.

We are living an interesting current context. The turn of a century really seems to give rise to certain impact in the human being psyche - while some glimpse a virtuous time never imagined, others already wait resigned by the apocalyptic climax. Not so much to the sea, not so much to the land, the humanity walk as always, probably with more sped up steps, but still less dramatic than the exacerbating digital anxiety everywhere seems to make us believe.

While individuals and societies try voraciously myriads of technologies and new features promoted in global and broken up scale, while pachydermous governments still insist on remaining mentally ill,  companies are putting themselves into motion, some  inspired by their on digital revolution purpose, others by the searching pragmatism for survival in the new competitive arena.

Five paradoxes dominate increasingly the executive agenda:

. Horizon

. Agenda

. Transparency

. Work

. Innovation

The Horizon paradox approaches the historical tension between short and long term. But now it is more intense. The pressure for monthly and quarterly results in publicly traded companies, motivated by the investment fund managers, is even more intense. At the same time, the increase of social consciousness and the public scrutiny are defying the companies to assume long term commitments with the society and environment.

The Agenda paradox mentions the short executive cycles versus the decision power for long term. The permanence of high executives in the same position is increasingly shorter, notwithstanding the necessity of taking decisions of long term in the companies. Conflicts of interest inexorably appear as there is no need to exist alignment between the individual incentives and collective objectives.

The Transparency paradox opposes to the democracy of accessing data versus the loss of power based on these information domain. The celebration of finding the enormous “deposits of data”, organized and processed coexists with the expressive loss of influence and direction to the most universal access to these same data. The data standardization certainly questions the aggregate value of diverse functions.

The Work paradox recognizes the individual journey by means of experience, expression and connection inherent to the current context of ethics of pleasure, where the search for the personal satisfaction overcomes the own disposal to the formerly existing obedience in the ethics of duty. Work - before seen as a punishment to be considered like a bridge for the accomplishment of dreams and fulfilment of obligations with third parties - now is seen as a continuous line of life. The organizational drawings and executive leaderships are in check.

The Innovation paradox refers to a shock between Compliance and Experiment. The corporative world is becoming increasingly regulated and controlled, being of the internal compliance the responsibility for the accomplishment with the behavior codes and for the observance of the integrated risk control. But fast cycles of business impose a fluid dynamics of experimentations - many times, in ecosystems full of start-ups and partners - that places the organization exactly in a gray area undesirable by the compliance.

Here they are the five paradoxes of the contemporary world of the executive leaderships in the organizations. There is no shortcut to solve these corporative dilemma. Only strong strategic direction, group cohesion, healthful organizational culture and functional systems can help such leaders to take decisions in this unstable context.


Daniel Motta is the Founder and CEO of BMI Blue Management Institute, a leading niche consulting firm. He is a global thought leader focused on culture, strategy and leadership. He has a PhD in Economics, MSc in Financial Economics and BA in Economics. He is also an OPMer from Harvard Business School. He is the Managing Director of USA-based VC company White Fox Capital and the Senior Tupinambá Maverick of bossa&etc. He was a co-founder of Brazilian Society of Finance. He currently serves NGO UNIBES as Strategic Planning Principal. He is the author of the best selling books Essential Leadership and book Anthesis. He also has three articles published by Harvard Business Review. He is a Board Member of MASP.