Redefining a post-pandemic world

Part one of four in a four-part series

The six paradoxes required of today's leadership

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the role businesses play in society. It has also created a clear challenge for leaders: although societal needs differ according to geography, sector, skill set, risk appetite and ability to work remotely, the world of work needs to work better for everybody. This creates two interrelated imperatives for leaders, even as they continue prioritising health and workplace safety. The first is to reinvent the workplace to address the new realities created, or exacerbated, by the global pandemic. The second is to use this moment of reinvention as an opportunity to create fairer, more inclusive, more equitable places to work.

COVID-19 has prompted commitments from some leaders to focus on the workforce, be it adopting hybrid models, placing more attention on well-being and good work, or both. For example, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, is looking at reducing the time employees spend in the office to less than 50% and talks openly about empathy and wellness as hallmarks of the corporate culture. Jane Fraser, first female CEO of Citibank, is openly talking about the challenges women face, including their role as working parents.

A pivotal shift for leaders is underway: today, leaders are asked to lead in a world that is unlike anything anyone has ever experienced.

The world needs leaders who can create long-lasting impact and drive positive change across the world.

What is required of leaders is becoming more complex and challenging. As seemingly irreconcilable problems emerge, the expectation of those who lead is becoming ever more demanding.

PwC has developed the six paradoxes, which are becoming increasingly important for leaders to navigate. Together they constitute a system that leaders need to operate and balance gracefully as they manage the seemingly impossible number of demands they face. 


Redefining a post-pandemic world - six paradoxes leaders need to navigate

A paradox involves contradictory-yet-interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time. What they have in common, which also makes them uniquely challenging, are:

  • They create powerfully positive outcomes.
  • They can polarise people or groups if not managed well.
  • They involve a mindset which requires you to hold two opposing ideas simultaneously.


Leaders in the digital era need to navigate being agnostic of the belief system and market structures of the world but being focused and committed to the locale (globally-minded localist), leading with high integrity while accruing support, negotiating, and forming coalitions to overcome resistance to maintain progress (high-integrity politician), recognising when to help and be helped while exuding confidence (humble hero), finding insights into the future (strategic executor), driving technology enhancements while deeply understanding human effectiveness in any given system (tech-savvy humanist), connecting deeply to the purpose of the original idea while driving innovation and having the courage to fail (traditioned innovator). The image below, summarises the key concepts of the six paradoxes of leadership.

Six paradoxes of leadership

Globally-minded localist

Globally minded localist

How do you navigate a world that is increasingly both global and local?

Globally-minded: To be agnostic about belief systems and market structures and be a student of the world.
Localist: To be fully committed to the success of a locale.

Strategic executor

Strategic executor

How do you execute effectively while also being highly strategic?

Strategic: To find insights and observations by  looking to the future to inform decision-making today. 
Executor: To deliver exquisitely on today's challenges.

High-integrity politician

High-integrity politician

How do you navigate the politics of getting things to happen and retain your character?

High-integrity: To maintain integrity and build trust in all interactions.
Politician: To accrue support, negotiate, form coalitions overcome resistance to maintain progress.

Tech-savvy humanist

Tech-savvy humanist

How do you become increasingly tech savvy and remember that organisations are run by people, for people?

Tech-savvy: To drive technology enhancement which generates
future success.
Humanist: To deeply understand human effectiveness in any given system.

Humble hero

Humble hero

How do you have the confidence to act in an  uncertain world and the humility to recognise when you are wrong?

Humble: To foster deep personal resilience in self and others, recognising when to help and be helped. 
Hero: To exude confidence, with competitive flair and gravitas.

Traditioned innovator

Traditioned innovator

How do you use the past to help direct your future success, while also creating a culture that allows innovation, failure, learning and growth?

Traditioned: To connect deeply with the purpose of the original idea, and bring this value to the present day.
Innovator: To drive innovation and try new things; have the courage to fail and allow others to do so.

Redefining a post-pandemic world


Those successful in leveraging the lessons learnt during the pandemic, and working towards developing a balance between the six paradoxes previously discussed, will emerge as true leaders as we transition into a new post-pandemic world of work. The coming months need to be a time of renewed, purposeful, everyday commitment to investing in people, and the future of their organisations.


Contact us

Claudine Attard

Claudine Attard

Director, Advisory, PwC Malta

Tel: +356 2564 7026

Mark Grech

Mark Grech

Advisory, PwC Malta

Tel: +356 2564 4510

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