adaptive-leadership

What Is Adaptive Leadership? Adaptive Leadership In A Nutshell

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

Understanding adaptive leadership

Adaptive leadership was first introduced to the world at Harvard University by Dr. Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linksy. Both recognized that the top-down or hierarchical leadership style was outdated and impractical, with no single person able to fix every problem effectively. 

Indeed, leadership is now a team sport in modern business. Management is expected to work with other leaders and employees to successfully navigate change, accomplish goals, and emergent triumphant at the other end.

Adaptive leadership does not use traditional problem-solving methods which favor rules, regulations, and protocol. Instead, it relies on dynamic, creative, people-focused solutions. Although popular for years, the leadership style has seen a surge in popularity as businesses face the continual challenges of navigating the coronavirus pandemic.

The adaptive leadership model

Adaptive leadership is defined by a framework of three key components:

  1. Precious or expendable – when change occurs, businesses naturally question whether certain aspects are still serving them. That is, which elements are worth keeping and which are not? Organizational growth is dependent on leaders moving on from the past and opening up new economic opportunities or ways of operating.
  2. Experimentation and smart risks – adaptive leaders also understand that growth is beset by challenges. However, they develop and test ideas and then learn from any mistakes. 
  3. Disciplined assessment – with new avenues for growth identified, adaptive leaders implement and monitor the impact of new systems or processes. They actively collaborate with impacted teams and make adjustments where necessary.

The five adaptive leadership principles

Like all leadership styles, there are no predetermined qualities an adaptive leader must display.

In no particular order, here are some that may be useful:

  • Organizational justice – otherwise known as fairness. Adaptive leaders need to be open, honest and be willing to have difficult conversations. They must also communicate in facts and with honesty to ensure change is accepted by subordinates.
  • Character – adaptive leaders must also be able to earn the respect of those they lead. Here, transparency is important. They must not be afraid to make or admit mistakes, nor must they be afraid of ceasing an initiative that isn’t working. They also embrace the diversity of opinion across the organization.
  • Emotional intelligence – or the ability for a leader to perceive the feelings or emotions of others while keeping their own emotions in check. Emotionally intelligent leaders respond to the concerns of others with empathy because they separate the person from the problem they are experiencing. 
  • Development – adaptive leaders embrace continuous growth and learning and are not averse to trying new problem-solving strategies. The best adaptive leaders also encourage similar values around creativity and innovation in their subordinates.
  • Win-win problem solving – lastly, adaptive leaders see conflict resolution as an opportunity to come to a mutually beneficial result. For example, one organization may benefit from a merger with a competitor rather than spending excessive amounts of money trying to beat them.

Key takeaways:

  • Adaptive leadership is a leadership model used by leaders to move organizations through complex or dynamic change. It favors creative, people-focused problem solutions over rules and procedures.
  • Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components. Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.
  • Adaptive leadership is characterized by the following traits: fairness, transparency, emotional intelligence, continuous growth, and win-win problem-solving.

Connected Business Concepts

7-steps-to-problem-solving
The 7 steps to problem-solving is a disciplined and methodical approach to identifying and then addressing the root cause of problems. Instead, a more robust approach involves working through a problem using the hypothesis-driven framework of the scientific method. Each viable hypothesis is tested using a range of specific diagnostics and then recommendations are made.
feynman-technique
The Feynman Technique is a mental model and strategy for learning something new and committing it to memory. It is often used in exam preparation and for understanding difficult concepts. Physicist Richard Feynman elaborated this method, and it’s a powerful technique to explain anything.
5-whys-method
The 5 Whys method is an interrogative problem-solving technique that seeks to understand cause-and-effect relationships. At its core, the technique is used to identify the root cause of a problem by asking the question of why five times. This might unlock new ways to think about a problem and therefore devise a creative solution to solve it.
fishbone-diagram
The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.
The Lightning Decision Jam
The Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) is a means of making fast decisions that provide quick direction. The Lightning Decision Jam was developed by design agency AJ&Smart in response to the inefficiency of business meetings. Borrowing ideas from the core principles of design sprints, AJ&Smart created the Lightning Decision Jam.
less-is-better-effect
The less-is-better effect was first proposed by behavioral scientist Christopher Hsee in a 1998 study. He noted in the experiment that a person giving a $45 scarf as a gift was perceived to be more generous than someone giving a $55 coat. The less-is-better effect describes the consumer tendency to choose the worse of two options – provided that each option is presented separately.
eisenhower-matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that helps businesses prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, the matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important to prevent urgent things (seemingly useful in the short-term) cannibalize important things (critical for long-term success).
7-steps-to-problem-solving
The 7 steps to problem-solving is a disciplined and methodical approach to identifying and then addressing the root cause of problems. Instead, a more robust approach involves working through a problem using the hypothesis-driven framework of the scientific method. Each viable hypothesis is tested using a range of specific diagnostics and then recommendations are made.
cynefin-framework
The Cynefin Framework gives context to decision making and problem-solving by providing context and guiding an appropriate response. The five domains of the Cynefin Framework comprise obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic domains and disorder if a domain has not been determined at all.

Main Free Guides:

Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"