Adaptable Leadership: Why It’s Important and How to Develop It
What Is Adaptable Leadership?
The ability to adapt to complexity and continual change, often unanticipated, has become imperative for top tier leaders. Adaptable leadership is a framework that helps leaders stay flexible, responsive, and effective in responding to change in challenging situations.
Many organizational issues occur in an ambiguous context and do not lend themselves to clear and straightforward solutions. These situations often require bringing together the right skill sets to respond to unanticipated challenges. The adaptive leader recognizes that adaptability requires a level of personal understanding that offers access to their strengths in these moments of ambiguity. They are adaptive because they are prepared through skills sets, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and self-knowledge.
What Are the Traits of an Adaptable Leader?
Character—Character may be thought of as how you treat others who have no way to repay you. Fred Kiel named four qualities of good character: Two from the head and two from the heart. The two from the head are integrity and responsibility. The two from the heart are forgiveness and compassion.
Organizational Justice—Keeping open lines of communication with all employees and being genuinely interested in them. This involves taking a genuine interest in their questions, concerns and even criticisms.
Development—Explores new ways to achieve desired results. The adaptable leader is curious about themselves, committed to personal mastery and dedicated to innovation and improving things.
Emotional Intelligence—Highly self-aware and aware of others. Leaders high on EQ are humble, empathetic, fair, and true collaborators. They seek objectivity over being right.
How to Know if You Are an Adaptable Leader?
Adaptive leaders place significant importance on the values, abilities, and aspirations of stakeholders in organizational change. They embrace diversity of ideas and the benefits of collective knowledge in making important decisions. Adaptive leaders know that all change involves loss and create conditions to address the impact that change can have on teammates. They understand that meaningful change is a gradual process, and they are willing to persist and endure the pressure that is part of the process.
Adaptive leaders take initiative, are on the lookout for opportunities, and plan to have resources available to pursue opportunities. They are willing to experiment and take risks, and in the face of loss to move on, admit to mistakes and revise their mission based on what they learned. They also encourage their employees to pursue innovation and to adopt these same adaptive leadership qualities in the process.
How to Become an Adaptable Leader
Companies that are slow to adapt to change in the marketplace recede from their leadership positions in their industries. Adaptability is the result of knowing what to do and being able to execute promptly.
Becoming an adaptive leader starts by brainstorming the strategic adaptations that need to happen in your company and reviewing and internalizing the following:
Dynamic Product Creation.
Your audience will change, expectations will shift and the market surrounding them is continually pulsing with change. Adapt and update accordingly. Systemize a process by which you update, correct, and rework your product or service.
Know your “false beliefs” and “untried beliefs.”
Your company could be hindered by questionable but firmly held beliefs and assumptions and therefore do not take prompt and decisive action. Even if you recognize trends you may fail to act or to act without sufficient speed or needed emphasis.
Look for strengths in competitor’s products that may highlight a weakness in yours. Focus on what there is to learn and where your perspective needs to broaden. Focusing on your strengths relative to the competition may be comforting but should be dead last when you assess them. There is much to be learned from a shrewd new competitor.
Bringing in an outsider’s perspective is essential to innovation. Listen to comments made from new recruits who have horde of comments and suggestions about what could be done better. Outsider perspective is unclouded and may offer a window into the changes you need to be making that may not be clear to you.
Evenly dispersed autonomy (decision-making power).
Amazing things happen when you give employees freedom to make their own judgment calls. When too many decisions are made by a small group of senior leaders, important things are often missed, or they may fail to see the merit of an initiative which may be clear to employees “on the ground.” Understanding the new needs of a changing market is best conducted as a collaborative endeavor.
Getting Started with Adaptable Leadership
Adaptable leadership has never been more important. You don’t need to look further than the COVID pandemic to understand that times are changing and being able to adapt quickly is the difference between major gain and potential ruin.
Luckily, adaptable leadership can be learned. And the first step is exactly what you are doing right now, reading about the topic to increase your awareness and ability to improve.
If you are looking to fast-track your adaptable leadership, feel free to get in contact. At CEOE, creating adaptable leaders is one of many areas where we can help you excel. With the next big change or the next big thing right around the corner, there has never been a more important time to focus on this.