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The new model: adaptive leadership

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in Leadership Skills

Many business thinkers have already pro­­nounced the death of the hierarchical, command-and-control approach to leadership. Those approaches simply don’t work anymore. They impede information, tamp down collaboration.

What’s in? Adaptive leadership. Among other things, adaptive leaders embrace uncertainty and adopt new approaches. Here’s how:

• Manage the context in which actors interact, not the instruction set. In an uncertain world, rigid rules aren’t productive.

Example: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings advocates for this idea in the company’s “Reference Guide on our Freedom & Responsibility Culture.”

Hastings says, “Avoid chaos as you grow with ever more highly performing people, not with rules.”

• Cultivate diverse perspectives to gen­erate a multiplicity of options. What would happen if you made dissenting opinions compulsory? Look for dissenting views lower down the ladder, where people confront external realities.

Example: Abraham Lincoln deliberately put his rivals on his cabinet.

• Share leadership. No single person can lead at all times and in all situations. Leadership should go to the person or group best suited to a specific decision.

• Question constantly. Adaptive leaders look outward and realign their company with the shifting environment. They test their own assumptions by running thought experiments.

Example: Andy Grove, who was then president of Intel, asked the then CEO: “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do?”

— Adapted from “Adaptive Leadership,” Boston Consulting Group Perspectives.

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