Adaptive Leadership

Key Idea

Unlike most managers or supervisors, adaptive leaders thrive in never-been-done-before settings, where answers — about where to place y our energy or resources — are not readily available in the latest leadership manual.  Adaptive leaders thrive in these settings because they’ve mastered the art of mobilizing people toward a common goal, first by diagnosing what is essential for the journey (the enduring values of the enterprise, current practices) while also having the courage to experiment with new ideas and approaches.

Book to Reference

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership 
by Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky (2009)

Quick Take from the Book

Four tips for the adaptive leader:

  1. Don’t Do It Alone (find allies who will share the dangers).
  2. Live Life as a Leadership Laboratory (be willing to see opportunities for growth — personally and professionally — where you might have missed them before).
  3. Resist the Leap to Action (before acting, fiercely challenge your assumptions).
  4. Discover the Joy of Making Hard Decisions (don’t forget that being a leader, like being a parent, often means saying a ‘hard no’ once a day).

Quote of Note

"Mobilizing people to meet their immediate adaptive challenges lies at the heart of leadership in the short term. Over time, these and other culture-shaping efforts build an organization’s adaptive capacity, fostering processes that will generate new norms that enable the organization to meet the ongoing stream of adaptive challenges posed by a world ever ready to offer new realities, opportunities and pressures."
— The Practice of Adaptive Leadership

Related Styles: Agile LeadershipBoundary-spanning Leadership, Complexity Leadership 

Return to List of Leadership Styles