Adaptive Leadership

WellBeing and Performance Agenda

An Introduction to Adaptive Leadership

The management process most likely to result in commitment, trust, engagement and kinship is Adaptive Leadership. The principles of this process are based on shared responsibility for the future success of the organisation.

Adaptive Leadership Key Points

The Adaptive Leadership Architecture
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WellBeing & Perfomance Agenda – Adaptive Leadership

Leadership is about taking a lead, and no change in attitude or practice is going to happen unless someone or several people take a lead in bringing about change.

This item, therefore, has to be first on the Agenda. It is about introducing the process of leadership that will provoke the workforce to feel enhanced psychological wellbeing so it will perform at its peak consistently.

Definition of Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership is a process of leadership that is adopted by everyone in the workforce. In effect, everyone takes a lead to ensure the organisation attains greater success in the future

Benefits of Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership strongly provokes individuals in the workforce to feel they ‘own’ the organisation, and are responsible for its future success. It, therefore, provokes the motivation to produce high performance.

The effect is that the combined intelligence of the workforce is used to address the issues affecting the future success of the organisation.

The process offers the opportunity for individuals to feel psychologically well as it plays to most of the ingredients of psychological wellbeing.

Adopting Adaptive Leadership helps to eliminate the adverse events and behaviours that are impediments to success because everyone is ‘in it together’ and will iron out the behaviours and events that impede success.

Implementation of Adaptive Leadership

A decision to implement this process should be taken by the Board of Directors. There are a number of exercises that help with implementation, and you can follow Derek Mowbray’s Guide to Adaptive Leadership to help implement the process.

The Leaders and Manager’s Code can be used as the basis for all leaders and manager’s behaviour and actions, and be the curriculum for leadership development.

Workshops and coaching on Adaptive Leadership are available, as is a workshop of the manager’s role in resilience which covers the main points about Adaptive Leadership.

Difference between Adaptive Leadership and other forms of Leadership

Decisions tend to fall into being either a) technical decisions, for which the outcome is characterised by degrees of certainty, and b) adaptive decisions, for which the outcome is characterised by speculation and uncertainty.

Decisions that are technical include, for example, budgeting, and project management.

Decisions that are adaptive include, for example, performance appraisal, conflict management, motivation, change management, strategic planning, communications.

Adaptive Leadership a recipe for chaos?

All organisations employ leaders and managers who are ‘held to account’ by a Board of Directors (or others) for the delivery of aspects of the organisation’s purpose. These are normally Directors, heads of divisions, heads of department and supervisors of teams. They most frequently deal with technical decisions, decisions about which there is a degree of certainty, and the use of matrices and measurement in decision making. Such positions are positions ‘of authority’, and remain when Adaptive Leadership processes are implemented.

Adaptive Leadership processes require everyone to ‘feel accountable and responsible’ for the success of the organisation, but not ‘held to account’ for its success.

In effect everyone ‘takes a lead’ as a consequence of feeling responsible for helping the leaders and managers ‘in authority’ to be held to account. The workforce is their ‘eyes and ears’ and agents in making the organisation more successful tomorrow compared with today.

The main tasks of Adaptive Leadership

The main tasks are

  • To create the conditions that provoke psychological wellbeing and performance at work.
  • To constantly reinforce the culture and leadership style of the WellBeing and Performance Agenda.

This is achieved by working with the workforce in implementing the remainder of The Wellbeing and Performance Agenda.

Further reading

The next element of the WellBeing and Performance Agenda is:

Psychological Responsibility

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A Fabulous Organisation



Articles about Adaptive Leadership

We continually update our article library with content from as wide a source as possible. If you would like more in-depth information on this subject, please click here to visit the Adaptive Leadership section of the library where you will be able to both read and download as many papers on this subject as you wish


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