Resilient leadership as paradox work: notes from COVID-19

Luca Giustiniano, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Ace V. Simpson, Arménio Rego, Stewart Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Crises and tragedies befalling individuals, teams, organizations, or communities
call for leadership that builds resilience in the face of danger. The COVID-19 pandemic, full of both known and unknown unknowns, is no exception and variable national responses to it epitomize the importance of resilient leadership. In such situations there is always the expectation that ‘something has to be said’ in response to commentators and authorities calling for a clear unambiguous direction (in politics, in business, and in communities) and that it is best said by ‘the leader’. Saying something and dealing with a reality unravelling in the midst of uncertainty and ambiguity can lead to paradoxical situations. In the words of Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen (2020), COVID-19 has challenged leaders with ‘fixing the plane while it flies’. For passengers to remain calm while doing so requires the tension-laden goal of ‘building recovery on a foundation of trust’. The balance between saying something reassuring and responding to something threatening in process is difficult to weigh. While to lead means to guide, to resile means to respond or be guided by circumstances through a process of adaptation and growth within a risky environment. In this commentary, we discuss resilient leadership as paradox work, i.e., guiding while being guided by contingencies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-975
Number of pages5
JournalManagement and Organization Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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