Adaptive Leadership and Leading through Change

When an organization is challenged with a shift in technology, a new customer preference, or a new marketing dynamic such as the current economy, you need to awaken that leader within you to guide others through changes. When the workload, team members, customers, and resources are changing constantly, your leadership and management style must also evolve.
Challenging traditional leadership models that have reigned in organizations for years, Adaptive Leadership looks at business issues through a different lens. Leaders who employ an adaptive style can build dynamic teams that welcome change and turn uncertainty into positivity.

While switching leadership styles comes naturally to some, others have to work hard on it – by studying and practicing habits of successful adaptive leaders. To begin with, try these four tips as your team experiences an organization-wide change.

1. Challenge the status quo

Leading people through changes often involve altering their roles and sometimes work identities. For instance, if you are transitioning from a traditional waterfall model to practice agile methodology, your project managers and business analysts are required to pick up new skill sets, change the way they perform, and become scrum masters and product owners, respectively. Work with your human resources team on skill mapping and restructure accordingly. An internal knowledge audit will come in handy here, too, helping you identify knowledge gaps.

2. Talk to your customers

Even if you’re a huge IT brand with thousands of clients, there is always a way to start a conversation with your audience. Get knee-deep in the dialogue (either via surveys or feedback calls) and understand what can motivate them to stay with your brand. Once you have enough information, hold brainstorming sessions with your sales and marketing team to possibly re-package and rebrand your service bundle to reflect what your clients want.

3. Trust your intuition, but back it with numbers

A good business leader has an intuitive business understanding, backed by extensive knowledge of customers, the industry, and competitors. Use this understanding while designing process changes and product offerings. To ensure you are not completing getting it wrong, do your research and evaluate your numbers – employee engagement, percentage of revenue change, customer satisfaction score, etc. As a rule, don’t forget to include constructive feedback from customers in each “change exercise.”

Remember, solving a problem requires a fine combination of risk and logic. Don’t be too scared of getting it wrong. Good leaders aren’t afraid to try, fail, learn, and grow. Failures can fuel growth and progress, only if you allow yourself to learn from them. Some of the world’s greatest lessons are hidden in failures and perseverance.

4. Build a playful team

Adaptive leadership is all about encouraging, experimenting, and implementing change, whether through policy or attitudes. When change requires you to challenge people’s familiar reality, many may feel threatened as you push through major changes. But as a leader, you need to find a way to make it work.

One way to ensure your team gets used to the change and consistently delivers the ideas that matter is allowing them to have fun with work. To lighten the mood, allow them to laugh out loud during collaboration calls. Or, choose a different setting such as an office park and team lunch for brainstorming. Also, be open to all ideas without labeling them “stupid.” Remember, a hilarious or “stupid” thought that makes it to a brainstorming session can turn into an incredible out-of-the-box idea after further discussion.

Final Thought: Leaders who challenge existing norms, ask questions, and orchestrate conflict resolution help the organization face any challenge and emerge triumphantly, even when faced with uncertainty.