Leading in Complex Times Requires Adaptation

Ron Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (2009, Harvard Business Press) write about adaptive leadership.  Their definition: Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive (page 14) sounds like the kind of leadership many of us might want to employ.

Adaptive change is about building on what is good from the past and enabling the capacity to thrive.  The status quo is not maintained, but the adaptations, rearranging, re-regulating and/or displacing is not random – it is done with the focus on enabling the capacity to thrive.

They state that:

Ø  Adaptive leadership is specifically about change that enables the capacity to thrive.

Ø  Successful adaptive changes build on the past rather than jettison it.

Ø  Organizational adaption occurs through experimentation.

Ø  Adaptation relies on diversity.

Ø  New adaptations significantly displace, re-regulate, and rearrange some old DNA. Meaning – leadership on adaptive challenges generates loss (and change).

Ø  Adaptation takes time. (pages 14 – 16)

Points to ponder:

The authors write that as leaders approach and are engaged in organizational change they should know that such an “enterprise takes time, careful thought, and courage”.

How do you react to the concept of major organizational change taking time, requiring careful thought and courage?

Is this a time that ‘begs’ for people (who are part of an organization – say a school) to share responsibility for the organization’s future and the future of the potentially vital  service the organization provides?


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