Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership – a trigger for peak performance

Adaptive Leadership has a significant influence on the motivation and commitment that individuals have for their work and for their organisation. It is a trigger for peak performance.

In a changing and challenging environment, the need to be flexible and adaptable is an essential requirement for people as well as the organisations they create.

Adapting to changing situations is a continuous activity for everyone. Individuals who adapt quickly, without causing distress to themselves and others, are more resilient and productive than those who can’t. They are alert, inquisitive, energised, motivated and engaged.

Leaders have a major challenge in adapting organisations to face up to and respond effectively to internal and external pressures. They have to rely on the workforce to be flexible and adaptable to enable the organisation to respond effectively.

Often this is about taking adaptive type decisions which, by their nature, are shrouded in uncertainty and speculation, as they involve people, in contrast to technical decisions which produce the same result each time they are taken.

Here’s where Adaptive Leadership comes in.

What is Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership focuses on the principle of ‘sharing responsibility for the future success of the organisation’.

The aim is for the workforce to feel they ‘own’ the organisation and are responsible for its success.

It’s well established that when individuals feel they ‘own’ their work and share ‘ownership’ of the organisation their engagement intensifies, resulting in improved focus and concentration – the key to peak performance.

It is, also, well established that if you ‘own’ your work and your organisation you become more understanding of the need for change and more ready to adapt and be flexible when change is needed.

A rationale behind Adaptive Leadership is an appreciation that the combined intelligence of the workforce is far greater than that of its leaders and managers. Therefore, there is a natural need to harness this intelligence to ensure the future of the organisation is more successful tomorrow compared with today.

This is often interpreted as the ‘front line know much more about solving problems than anyone else’. This may not be entirely true but the sentiment is probably accurate.

Adaptive Leadership is a process. The expectation is:

  • the workforce focuses on the success of the organisation, not on its leaders and managers;
  • everyone is encouraged to ‘blow the whistle’ to ensure the future is more successful tomorrow compared with today;
  • that individuals will critique any aspect of the organisation to ensure future success;
  • that individuals will demonstrate their independent judgment about the organisation and how it can improve to be more successful in what it does;
  • that individuals will offer unsolicited ideas;
  • learning about the organisation, how it works and how to make it more successful, is institutionalised;
  • Leadership capacity is expanded.

People in leadership and manager positions continue to be held to account for the delivery of their part of the organisation’s purpose.

It becomes their role to encourage their teams and individuals to help them to be ‘held to account’ - they become the agents of their workforce.

Adaptive leadership has particular benefits:

  • sharing responsibility intensifies staff engagement;
  • it intensifies trust and commitment;
  • it lowers the risks of events and behaviours that may trigger psychological distress and
  • lowers the costs of psychological presenteeism (people being present at work in body but not in mind, normally costing organisations twice as much as sickness absence and staff turnover).

Principles of Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership applies 4 principles that encourage the engagement of followers:

  • the clear understanding of the purpose of the organisation and the role of individuals in achieving the purpose;
  • the utility of people skills/mix/experience in focusing on the future success of the organisation;
  • a tolerance of ambiguity;
  • a freedom to act.

These principles promote commitment, trust and engagement within organisations. Commitment and trust between leaders and followers is the bedrock for Adaptive Leadership.

The focus for Adaptive Leaders

Leaders who introduce and follow Adaptive Leadership processes have the following charactersitics:

  • Adaptive Leaders have the characteristics associated with clear direction with committed ambition, a strongly seductive characteristic in individuals.
  • Adaptive Leaders exert strategic influence on their environment; they are active in pursuing opportunities for the organisation within a complex environment; they foresee opportunities; they are personally flexible and entertain diverse views and opinions.
  • Adaptive Leaders are willing to experiment, and take calculated risks; they encourage innovation, and have a style that is personally open.
  • Adaptive Leaders learn how to follow, and followers learn how to lead. This is the essence of the approach.
  • Adaptive Leadership has a significant influence on the motivation and commitment that individuals have for their work and for their organisation. It is a trigger for peak performance.

Adaptive Leadership has a significant influence on the motivation and commitment that individuals have for their work and for their organisation. It is a trigger for peak performance.

Read more in Derek Mowbray’s Guide to Adaptive Leadership.

Need more information?

Please call us on 01242 241882 or email us for further information about our in house programmes on Adaptive Leadership


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