Getting Unstuck: Using Leadership Paradox to Execute with Confidence, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Getting Unstuck

Using Leadership Paradox to Execute with Confidence, 1st Edition

By Ralph Jacobson

Productivity Press

169 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781466596436
pub: 2013-09-03
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Humans are naturally wired to solve problems. Implement the right solutions and the problems generally go away. Paradoxes are quite different. They consist of opposites that do not appear to be able to coexist, but must. Most of the issues that keep organizations from achieving strategic success are not problems, they are paradoxes. Practical approaches to address our most important paradoxes do exist. By reading this book you will learn how to address the paradoxes commonly encountered in organizations and in life.

Getting Unstuck: Using Leadership to Execute Paradoxes with Confidence will teach you how to balance key paradoxes to achieve greater long-term growth and enhanced sustainability than those who rely on financial data and problem solving methods alone. It addresses the issues that are the most troublesome to people and the organizations they work for.

Describing how to think and work more strategically, the book introduces the language and tools you need to share innovative approaches to dilemmas within your organization and to develop better working relationships, both internally and externally. It provides a practical and powerful platform to help you develop new possibilities and achieve your strategic objectives. You will learn how to see conflict with a fresh set of eyes, how to redefine your roles, and how to become more effective professionally and personally.

If you have experienced trouble implementing strategic objectives, difficulties getting people from different parts of your organization to work together; if you want to achieve a higher level of success, if you feel stuck, then read this book. Filled with examples of real-world paradoxes, it supplies valuable insights into the root causes of workplace conflicts to help you execute change with greater confidence and effectiveness.


Once again, Jacobson has nailed it–here he illuminates perhaps the single most important management concept that most have ignored. He sees paradox as a defining constant in all organizations, and then provides the tools that help leaders recognize, understand, communicate and manage paradox in their organizations, and in their personal lives.

—David E. Longnecker, MD, Robert D. Dripps Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania & former Director, Health Care Affairs, Association of American Medical Colleges

Navigating paradoxes is the essence of this delightful book that elegantly describes the complexity of paradoxes and then offers a progressively layered approach on how to successfully navigate paradox on several levels. The reader immediately resonates with the material and examples offered; the author’s ability to offer pragmatic solutions is based upon proven, successful approaches in the real world.

—Peter Angood, CEO, American College of Physician Executives

Successfully managing in this complex, constantly changing environment requires leaders to be comfortable with ambiguity and to possess high levels of agility and dexterity. This is one of the few leadership books that provides truly practical principles and tools that make it easier for leaders to achieve their strategic objectives. It provides a new perspective on conflict, innovation, and change that enables leaders to work through issues which defy resolution, yet are critical for professional and organization success.

—Stephen J. Kontra, Vice President, Global Learning & Development, Pfizer Inc.

I love this book. It is perfect. We spend half our lives looking for solutions to life’s paradoxes. If you want a really clear understanding how to change and grow, than this is the book for you!!

Paul Grundy, MD, MPH, FACOEM, FACPM, founding President of the Primary Care Patient Centered Collaborative and IBM’s Director of IBM Global Healthcare Transformation

I wish I had read this book 20 years ago and avoided wasting my time trying to solve problems when the challenge was a paradox. This is the only book that gets to the heart of insolvable problems and provides a path for resolution.

—Don Ledbetter, Corporate Director of Management and Organizational Effectiveness, L-3 Communications

In his new book, Getting Unstuck: Using Leadership Paradox to Execute with Confidence, Ralph Jacobson explains that your toughest problem might not be a problem at all, but rather it’s a paradox. … A paradox is a situation that has at least two competing sides, and may appear as a contradiction. It has two polarities that can be both right and wrong at the same time. … Jacobson’s breakthrough book gives us tools to achieve higher levels of success, both professionally and personally as we find ways to balance the competing sides of our toughest issues.

— Kevin Kruse, writing on

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Table of Contents

What’s a Paradox? Why It’s Relevant!

What Am I/Are We Supposed to Do?

It’s Not Really a Problem

Is This a Problem or a Paradox?

Whatever Happened to Right and Wrong?

The Paradox Training Advantage

Organization Paradoxes: Understanding Resistance to Change

It Shouldn’t Be This Hard

What May Not Help?

Common Organization Paradoxes

Organization Paradox Examples

The Drama of the Unbalanced Paradox

Your Leadership Role

How Can You Spot a Strategic Paradox?

Strategic Paradoxes: How to Create Sustainable Growth

Structural Paradoxes: How to Lower the Silos


It’s a Battle in Here

How to Overcome Structural Paradoxes

Additional Options to Creating More Effective Structures

Hackathon: Example of an Emerging

Organization Structure

Practical Application

Functional/Division Paradoxes: Why Are We Fighting with Each Other

The Issue

The Work of Senior Leadership: Balance the Functional Silos

How to Spot a Functional Paradox

Role Paradox: Damned If You Do…Damned If You Don’t

The Paradox of Time: The Struggle to Focus on the Important

The Secret to Improving Productivity AND Employee Engagement

Achieving the Balance

Living a More Powerful Life

The Paradox of Team

Leader Paradoxes: Conflicting Roles/Conflicting Advice

Personal Leader Paradoxes

Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership

The Paradoxes of Making Decisions

The Limitations of Judgment

Addressing Decision-Making Paradoxes

The Paradoxes of Building a Corporate Culture

Leading Organization Cultural Change: The Drama

The Best Leadership Model

Personal Paradox: Addressing Life’s Universal Challenges

Universal Human Paradoxes

The Polarity Map™

When Interests and Values Collide

Closing Thoughts on Personal Paradox

Addressing Humanity’s Most Pressing Challenges

What We Experience

Antibiotics in Agriculture Processed as Paradox

The Healthcare Paradox

Breaking Down the Silos

In Conclusion

The Right Moves: Taking Action

Taking Individual Action to Balance Your Most

Critical Paradoxes

Moving from Thinking to Action

Leadership Actions to Balance Paradox


Taking Leadership Action

The Organization Path to Balancing Paradox: An Example


Appendix: Three Roles That Leaders Play



About the Author

Ralph Jacobson is the founder of The Leader’s Toolbox, Inc., an organization focused on helping individuals, companies, and communities tackle their most critical challenges. Recognizing the limits of conventional leadership development and change management processes, he developed a counterintuitive, yet powerful, approach to implementing change in his previous book, Leading for a Change: How to Master the Five Challenges Faced by Every Leader,which was recognized by as one of the top business books in 2000. Ralph also serves as adjunct faculty for The Physician’s Leadership College. His writing has appeared in a number of prestigious publications including American College of Physicians Journal, Humans Systems Management, Chief Executive Officer Magazine, Chief Learning Officer Magazine, and American Management Association. For the last 7 years he has been ranked in the top 10 independent leadership developers, coaches, and consultants by Leadership Excellence Magazine.His work has been utilized in healthcare, corporate, and government settings to make it easier for organizations to achieve their strategic objectives and sustain their success in the midst of turbulent times. Ralph holds advanced degrees in psychology and human resources from The Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Decision-Making & Problem Solving
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Workplace Culture
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Project Management