Do You Practise Adaptive Leadership? Your Organisation Needs You To.
You know how leaders are often called upon to be strong and decisive? Someone people can look up to, or who can motivate others to do their best. Someone who knows what it takes to succeed, and can take the rest of the team with them on the way to success.
But the breakneck pace at which disruptions and transformations continue to take place, seem to make the burdens that leaders need to carry on their shoulders, and the weight of the decisions that they need to make, increase tenfold. This means that today, more than ever, organisations are calling on their leaders to be adaptive.
What is adaptive leadership? And why does everyone in your organisation need you to practise it? Find out as we also take a look at what adaptive leadership can do to help an organisation grow, and what you have to do to become an adaptive leader.
Not a Position, but a Practice
Adaptive leadership is a systematic approach to leading that allows leaders to respond to changes in a situation that could have a major impact on their organisations. It’s the approach, or the act of leading that takes centre stage, instead of the title a leader happens to have.
While researching at Harvard University, leadership experts Dr. Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky developed the adaptive leadership framework to show leaders how to get everyone—not just key decision-makers—involved in the problem-solving process.
These experts identified the kinds of problems organisations need to solve, and what leaders and their teams need to solve them. These problems or adaptive challenges are highly technical and often recurring problems that aren’t always well-defined or have clear-cut solutions.
Instead of merely coming up with solutions on their own and handing them over to staff to carry out, adaptive leaders facilitate collaboration that encourages contributions from staff as well as management to develop the solutions. By empowering everyone to act in becoming part of the solution, everyone becomes a leader in their own right.
Breaking Away with Business Agility
Because this practice breaks away from the traditional, hierarchical model of leadership, adaptive leadership may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. But since many of the changes that today’s organisations have to deal with need a quick response, adaptive leadership gives them a framework for giving that response without having to go through bureaucratic red tape.
This is where you’ll find that adaptive leadership and business agility go hand in hand. Indeed, Adaptive Leadership: Accelerating Enterprise Agility author, Jim Highsmith, writes that an adaptive leader must develop an agile mindset.
With agility in mind, adaptive leadership can also be defined as a set of principles as well as practices that drive organisations to keep learning, which equips them with the capabilities for adapting and thriving in the face of change.
Among these practices is distinguishing the essential from the expendable and breaking away, again, from the status quo—if it means finding a better, more efficient way to do things and to solve problems. In so doing, the entire organisation and every individual in it will also be able to evolve slowly, but surely.
Organisations Need Adaptive Leadership
This evolution is precisely why organisations need adaptive leaders, because only the organisations that are able to respond effectively and efficiently to disruptions and other changes will survive and become profitable. Standard operating procedures or technical expertise just aren’t enough anymore for resolving problems or adaptive challenges.
With adaptive leadership, you create a whole new corporate culture that champions experimentation, discovery and innovation in problem solving. Team members acquire new skills and behavioural patterns alongside their managers as they take a renewed, more positive approach toward work.
Collaborating on a regular basis also enhances working relationships within teams, breaking down barriers commonly found in top-down corporate structures and enabling a free-flowing exchange of ideas. Seeing that their contributions are welcome and appreciated is also a real morale- and confidence-booster among the staff on any level.
Your teams readily turn failures as well as successes into opportunities for learning, which also include an awareness of industry trends and developments. By keeping close and constant tabs on what your target market is looking for, your organisation will be able to keep on providing better service and improving your bottom line.
Becoming an Adaptive Leader
Adaptive leadership as a leadership style isn’t acquired overnight, but you can start adopting the approach by taking note of what your organisation needs you to do whenever there’s an adaptive challenge to be faced.
- Assess the problem at hand. Take careful stock of what needs to be done, and keep on gathering and analysing data to inform your decisions even as you act. Get multiple interpretations of the issue to get a sense of how urgent or how soon you need to find a solution.
- Assess the people on hand. Take careful stock of who is capable and available to tackle the problem, including yourself. Just as important is taking note of who are affected by the issue, as well as the “default response” they may have in this situation.
- Ask for insights. Remember when we said that adaptive leadership was about getting everyone involved? Well, now is the time to do it. Discuss your findings and thoughts on everything you took stock of and get their perspectives of the issue before working together to find that solution.
- Promote the solution. Once you’ve collectively decided on what needs to be done, make sure everyone believes in the solution and has confidence in its efficacy. In inspiring your team or the entire organisation, make sure you’re delivering the right message in terms they can easily understand.
- Monitor and adjust as needed. Give the solution enough time to work while keeping an eye on how it’s working out for everybody. Be sure to take note of what worked and what didn’t, and to again involve everyone in gathering feedback and refining the solution.
In advocating the development of an adaptive or agile mindset, Highsmith says a leader must be open to change and be willing to explore and to create a vision. An adaptive leader must also know how to facilitate discussion and teamwork, and have the courage to view issues and possible solutions, even if they might seem to be contradictory.
We know that’s a lot to take in, but becoming the adaptive leader your organisation needs is possible with tailor-fit leadership training initiatives. Talk to us at Kaleidoskope to discover how you and your team can benefit from our Adaptive Leadership programme, today.