Home Concepts Organizational Theory Journey to Irony II: The Lands of Gamma and Delta

Journey to Irony II: The Lands of Gamma and Delta

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The sign of successful Ironic leadership is that the leader can hold opposing views without flinching. The leader would be a Rortian hero and would seem to emulate the epistemological courage found among the leaders of Delta. The sign of a viable organization is that it can live with and manage its dilemmas, paradoxes and ironic contradictions in real time, without questioning its identity at every turn in the road, whip-lashing its strategies, tearing and rebuilding it structures reactively, or scapegoating its people.

In the words of the British management expert Charles Hardy (1994): “Successful firms live with paradoxes, or what they call ‘dilemmas.’ Those firms have to be planned, yet flexible; be differentiated and integrated at the same time, be mass marketers while catering to niches; they must find ways to produce variety and quality, all at low cost; in short, they have to reconcile what used to be opposites, instead of choosing between them.” Hardy knows about Hard Irony!

As organizational interventionists, we may already be finding (or soon will find) that polarity management, while significantly more sophisticated an approach than straight-line problem- solving, is not always sufficient—for the polarities and the conditions underlying polarities are themselves changing.

Priorities are not only interconnected, they are also constantly shifting, and new alliances between old competing polarities are being forged. This is a world that requires Richard Rorty’s contingency thought and action. Clearly, when a world of complexity and contradiction collides with a world of uncertainty and turbulence, the plain begins to dance. We, as organizational coaches, consultants and leaders must learn how to dance on this plain. We must be committed and engaged. It will be a fascinating and never boring dance. It will be the dance of Hard Irony. Welcome . . .

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