Adaptive leadership is a framework first introduced in “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World“, a book written in 2009 by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky. The purpose of this leadership model is to assist businesses, large and small, across a wide range of industries through difficult and turbulent times. It achieves this by encouraging managers to embrace new ways of working and be more flexible in their thinking.
Companies that are built around strict hierarchies where one person sits at the helm or reliant on traditional, possibly outdated processes are ill-equipped to weather change and more likely to collapse when hit with a hurdle like the recent Covid-19 pandemic. However, by choosing to work openly and honestly with their employees, adaptive leaders find it much easier to navigate the business world’s ever-shifting landscape — from overcoming rapid technological advancements to preparing themselves for the problems posed by a global catastrophe.
To help you guide your team to success, here are three key traits every adaptive leader should possess.
1. Drive a Passion for Learning
Curiosity is one of the core principles of adaptive leadership, but to develop this quality, you must be open to experimentation and risk-taking. As a leader, you must foster an environment where your team can actively pursue learning, comfortably ask questions and are equipped with the necessary resources to chase and invest in new opportunities.
Also, if one tired, old technique isn’t yielding the desired results, be prepared to rip up the rulebook, admit mistakes were made and search for a more productive strategy. After all, sticking to a broken routine simply because that’s the way things have been done before isn’t conducive to long-term growth.
2. Be Open and Communicative
To become an adaptive leader, you must understand that everyone approaches challenges differently, which is why it’s so essential to ask for other opinions. Consider implementing a performance management programme like Clear Review to help you deploy regular employee engagement surveys, analyse the results and start meaningful conversations. The collective knowledge you acquire by considering each unique perspective is guaranteed to be incredibly insightful and will significantly benefit your business.
Here are a few other ways to collect honest feedback:
- Conduct one-on-one performance reviews regularly, rather than annually, and make sure all of your employee’s input is addressed.
- Encourage managers to get to know their teams on a personal level through informal gatherings and conversations.
- Avoid asking questions that solicit only a yes or no answer, and allow your staff enough time to consider their reply.
3. Positively Embrace Change
Change is inevitable, but you needn’t see it as a threat. Instead, consider it the fuel that keeps your organisation thriving. When you hit a bump in the road, give yourself the freedom to step back from the obstacle and examine it from all angles. By leaving behind rigid thought processes and considering each challenge with an open mind, your staff will find it much easier to adjust to the new conditions, and you’ll feel more confident in your decision making.
However, adaptive leaders also plan for the future and prepare a contingency plan for every scenario. Doing this is critical as it equips their team with the tools needed to handle every possible eventuality, minimise the risks and maximise the rewards.