Little coloured blocks and the paradoxes of leadership

At the turn of the century on the wall of every Lego manager was a sign highlighting the ’11 Paradoxes of Lego Leadership’ according to Emeritus Professor of Organisational Behaviour Paul Evans. These paradoxes give an insightful view into the difficult balance leaders in any organisation need to continually try and strike. It turns out Lego may know a thing or to about building leaders.


So who exactly are Lego?


Since 1949, children (and adults) the world over have been playing with little interlocking coloured blocks – turning their imagination into creation – from medieval castles to robots, the Lego phenomenon has been a success, not only as a toy but as a brand. It is currently the ‘world’s most powerful brand’ according to UK-based valuators Brand Finance. It is also the world’s largest toy company with 2015 revenues of US$5.4 billion


Behind the success of this Danish family-owned business has been a leadership ethosĀ that has enabled Lego to change and innovate over the last six decades without losing its identity.

So here they are, Lego’s 11 Paradoxes of Leadership:

  1. To be able to build a close relationship with one’s staff, and to keep a suitable distance;
  2. To be able to lead, and to hold oneself in the background;
  3. To trust one’s staff, and to keep an eye on what is happening;
  4. To be tolerant, and to know how you want things to function;
  5. To keep the goals of one’s department in mind, and at the same time be loyal to the whole firm;
  6. To do a good job of planning your own time, and to be flexible with your schedule;
  7. To freely express your view, and to be diplomatic;
  8. To be a visionary, and to keep one’s feet on the ground;
  9. To try to win consensus, and to be able to cut through;
  10. To be dynamic, and to be reflective;
  11. To be sure of yourself; and to be humble.

This no doubt resonates with leaders from many sectors and at different levels of seniority. It highlights the ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ aspect to leadership and the fact that your decisions can always be questioned; you’ve just got to arm yourself with the knowledge, experience and tenacity to give it your best shot and accept that sometimes you will get it wrong.


Fieri Leadership provide leadership training and consultancy to leading businesses and sports teams. To find out more visitĀ