Chris Nel

Adaptive Leadership

Are you a leader or an administrator? No, forget your job title, the plaque on your door, the entry in the company website. They are meaningless. What is important is what you do with your position, how you conduct yourself everyday and how you inspire others to greatness.

The bald truth is that planning is easy. Anyone can draw lines on a piece of paper, can draw up wish lists parroting slogans about customer care or about being the best. Admittedly some of the plans may be impractical but nevertheless they are plans. Go on the internet nowadays and you can download hundreds of articles and tick lists, all aimed at helping your business to succeed. Some of them are even useful but they all stand or fall on one person – You.

Before you embark gaily upon another project or sit glumly wondering why the last one has failed take a good look at the one person who has the most influence in its success or failure. When communicating with the people that look to you for leadership do you find yourself regurgitating the corporate (highly rational but sterile) case for change or do you convey a real sense of personal conviction? Are you managing a corporate change process or leading a human adaptation? Is the change something you care about? Or is a merely corporate duty?

And before you ask why your organisation needs to adapt, well “what isn’t changing” is probably an easier question to answer. If you don’t adapt, grow, respond to the marketplace then in an increasingly fast paced world you are left behind before you can take a breath.

If you truly want your organisation to change then you need to change, to embrace the art of adaptive leadership, to inspire others to want to make the change you are convinced needs to be made. As Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner, authors of a 30 year piece of research and 5 best-selling books including The Leadership Challenge, said, “100% of the thousands of leaders we have met were at their best when they were changing something. None were keeping things the same or presiding over a period of consolidation.

Once the decision to change is made, once the plan has been drawn up the next step is up to you. You need to create a sense of direction, to inspire, to engage people to join with you in creating the future. And you can only succeed if you yourself are inspired about the change, if you embrace adaptive leadership and you act as a leader rather than as a soulless administrator.

But my organisation is change resistant!” you say. We say your organisation is poorly led. Traditional (academically rooted) thinking is that we need to present people with careful analysis and clear rational plan to ensure organisations change. We see it differently. We believe you need to change the way people feel and act. Strategy documents don’t do that. Leaders do.

So before you get stuck in to managing the next big change take a good look at yourself, at your personal sense of conviction and at your leadership style. People aren’t change resistant if they are inspired; people aren’t inspired unless you act to inspire them. As Ghandi once said “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Adaptive leadership, it’s down to you. Coming soon…