Adaptive leadership is a leadership model that aims to embrace change, creativity, experimentation and innovation. Adaptive leadership entails the leader anticipation and identification of the root causes for challenges and find ways to sustainably overcome them. The overall aim is for leaders to enable their teams handle challenges and adapt to evolving environment. This requires a new perspective in leaders mindset to be more than just leaders from a positional perspective handing down direction. Instead, they must develop positive influence, be open to feedback, ready for inevitable change and prepared to shift course when necessary.
Three dimensions of adaptive leadership that I believe are key in aligning the practical understanding of adaptive leadership:
1. Flexibility – Adaptive Leaders must be courageous in handling uncertainty in their environment and accept change as part of the organization lifecycle. This entails facilitating a creativity culture that entails embracing failures as learning opportunities that would lead to continuous innovation; operating with policies and procedure as guides and not rules that must be followed that creates more of a bureaucratic culture.
2. Reflective – Adaptive leaders must be able to lead self and have command of personal presence and mastery. This involves being aware of self, curious about self and our experience with people. This also means that as an adaptive leader you should strive to create vulnerability trust in your organization or team that would facilitate reflective learning which is what drives organization learning.
3. Empathy – Adaptive leaders takes time to understand their teams create a genuine interest on their team members’ lives, their challenges and their overall feelings. The leader in this case makes an effort to understand their team’s situations, differing perspectives and what they are going through, in order to offer support and help. This will help foster trust, autonomy and recognition in the organization.
Characteristics of an Adaptive Leader
Adaptive leadership is an evolving and dynamic leadership and is a daunting force to influence your team and organization. How can you as a leader take advantage of adaptive leadership principles to transform your team and organization. The below are some of the key traits of adaptive leadership that can be adopted:
1. Emotional Mastery: Emotional mastery is a process of self-awareness; where a leader understands their emotions; are able to control them and make a conscious effort of not letting it control or dictate their life. Adaptive leaders are able to control their personal emotions and handle relationships empathetically. This is what enables them to build productive relationships and trust among the team.
2. Transparency: Adaptive leaders are are fair, honest and authentic leaders. It’s important to not skirt around the truth or give people only the good news instead of all the facts. Honesty can ensure that changes are embraced and understood by employees and stakeholders.
3. Vulnerability: Adaptive leaders are open to feedback, and foster vulnerability which then drive vulnerability trust in the team and organization. This is the ability to accept mistakes and failures as learning opportunities and allow the same mentality to the team members without victimization.
4. Creativity: Adaptive leaders have the ability to enable the team create and realize innovative solutions especially in the face of complexity and shifting situations. Adaptive leaders create clarity of purpose for their teams and encourage new strategies, and empower their teams to optimize their full potential.
These are practical skills that any leader can adopt with effort to inculcate an adaptive leadership culture in them. Any leader can intentionally develop the requisite skills needed to practice adaptive leadership approach and support their organizations navigate change.
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About the Author
Gilbert Ang’ana is a CEO of Accent Leadership Group. He is an expert source for topics relating to all things leadership, coaching, and organization development and a regular content contributor to various online publications. He is a Certified Leadership Coach and Speaker and a member of the John Maxwell Team, a Certified Engagement & Productivity Coach. Gilbert is a founder of Innovate Leader Academy an online academy that teaches matters leadership.