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Do You Practise Adaptive Leadership? Your Organisation Needs You To.

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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.

Fill out our form to receive full details on how you and your organisation can benefit from mastering the art of High Impact Facilitation. Just a few fields and you’re on your way to becoming a highly effective trainer.

Being a good leader isn’t something you can memorise, or take lessons for then consider yourself an expert, afterwards. While skills and certain principles may be taught, it’s up to you to make a conscious effort to put them into action.

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John F Kennedy once wrote that “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” As the leader of an entire nation counting on him to steer them through delicate foreign relations, economic difficulties, racial discrimination and other domestic issues, this US President knew he couldn’t afford to let his leadership skills slide.

Being a good leader isn’t something you can memorise, or take lessons for then consider yourself an expert, afterwards. While skills and certain principles may be taught, it’s up to you to make a conscious effort to put them into action.

There’s no real substitute for the experience you gain in the field as you pay close and careful attention to the impact of your actions on those you lead. This doesn’t mean, however, that the skills that a good leader ought to have can’t be learned or imparted in the form of guidance or mentorship.

 

A Guide Designed for Those Who Guide

To help you and the leaders in your organisation evolve your leadership abilities, we’ve put together this compact reference as a guide that acts in much the same way as a lighthouse for ships on a turbulent sea. It can be easy to lose sight of your role’s meaning or purpose amid the frenetic activity of your day-to-day, and the uncertainties of today’s business environment.

With entire teams of people and their respective leaders clamouring for your attention and multiple responsibilities demanding to be fulfilled, it can be helpful to take a step back and remember

  1. What it means to be a leader
  2. What are the critical traits a leader needs to have
  3. What a leader needs to do to address internal issues within the organisation
  4. How can a leader rise to the occasion to meet external challenges

This “quick refresher course”, if you will, just might help you keep your leadership goals in sight and within reach, and keep you on the path toward achieving them.

 

What It Means To Be A Leader

There are many definitions of who a leader is and what he’s meant to be doing, but they all might be distilled into this basic concept: A leader is a leader not because of the title he has, but the role he has to fulfil—and that role is to serve those he leads, and not himself. This means putting the needs of the organisation first, and making sacrifices toward this end.

Being a leader means being responsible for everyone in your charge, and constantly thinking of the greater good, which sometimes means overriding the individual. The larger the organisation or the more people you have under your care, the greater your responsibility.

This is one of, if not the guiding principle in making the tough decisions which, as a leader, are your job to make on a daily basis. When things get complicated, fast, ask yourself how a course of action in one way or the other affects everyone involved—from key management all the way down to maintenance. Everyone, not just a chosen few, must be able to benefit.

 

What Are the Critical Traits A Leader Needs to Have

It’s interesting to note how a list of characteristics that people expect their leaders to have, might often be seen on similar lists pertaining to heroes, idols, or anyone people look up to. But while we offer you a checklist of 20 Qualities of a Good Leader in Times of Change, we also point out that these qualities generally aren’t acquired overnight, nor on your own.

When we say “on your own”, we refer not to your personal initiative or drive for self-improvement, but rather to the fact that leadership doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Qualities on our checklist such as vulnerability and generosity, for instance, particularly require interaction with others to develop.

After going through this checklist and ticking off such qualities as you consider yourself to possess to an acceptable degree, it might be helpful to look back at the list later on to see whether you’ve improved. You might even make one or more of these qualities the object of a sort of “new year’s resolution” for you to work on.

 

What a leader needs to do to address internal issues  

In every organisation in every vertical across industries, teams are made up of people, and no two people are ever alike. As diversity in terms of background, skills and specialisations continues to abound in the workplace, it falls to you, as a leader, to make sure everyone is able to work together as smoothly as possible.

We offer you some advice for How to Manage A High-Performance Team Made Up of Different Personalities, reiterating the need for empathy and the ability to reach out and connect with people. While office cultures vary between organisations, the need for mutual respect, tolerance and trust between co-workers is a must at any level.

If a breach in this trust should occur or a line should be crossed, which does happen sometimes even in (or sometimes especially in) the closest-knit teams within “family atmosphere”-type cultures, it falls to you to restore harmony. You might refer to your organisational values and ask yourself, again, what the best course of action would be as regards the greater good.

 

How Can a Leader Rise to Meet External Challenges

  • Political issues
  • Economic trends
  • Technological developments
  • Natural disasters
  • Social questions

These are just some of the myriad factors affecting business growth, and as a leader, it’s your duty to see that your organisation is able to react in a timely fashion and to adapt accordingly.

Providing a prompt and effective response to challenges as they happen is the function of business agility. An organisation encumbered by a rigid hierarchy or bureaucratic procedure, for instance, would find itself quite unable to move quickly should an opportunity (or an impending disaster) present itself. Review the reasons Why A Good Leader Needs to Understand Business Agility.

It’s not enough for an organisation, however, merely to react—especially in the midst of the likes of a downward trend or negative backlash to an unforeseen event. An organisation must be able to adjust or change its team structures and business processes, for instance, and it’s up to you as a leader to effect these changes as needed.

This entails keeping an open mind and a willingness to learn, and while it’s undeniably admirable to adhere unflinchingly to a set of values and a work ethic, clinging to outdated procedures or methodologies will do your organisation no good. Ask yourself, Do You Practise Adaptive Leadership? to find out whether you’re the kind of leader your organisation needs.

 

Learn From Other Leaders

Being able to adapt, or to evolve as a leader comes with the territory of business growth. As with growth in general, not changing into something better is precursory to death—or stagnancy, at best. You owe it to the people you lead to keep on learning to become a good leader. It’s your responsibility to them as well as to yourself.

The good news is that you’re not alone—nor should you be. At the heart of your evolution as a leader is the ability to listen and empathise with the needs of those around you, within and outside of your organisation. Learning opportunities are just waiting to be found within every interaction; all you have to do is to seize them as they come.

Find guidance and mentorship specially designed for leaders and leaders-in-the-making with trainers who know what it is to be leaders, themselves. On top of decades of experience in leadership and management training, executive coaching, and business agility, our trainers have held key management positions in leading multinationals across the region and beyond.

Meet your mentors at Kaleidoskope, now.

Fill out our form to receive full details on how you and your organisation can benefit from mastering the art of High Impact Facilitation. Just a few fields and you’re on your way to becoming a highly effective trainer.