One of the biggest challenges leaders face is facilitating organizational adaptability. Positioning and enabling their organizations—and people—to adapt to an increasingly dynamic environment requires a different type of leadership than in the past ...
Red wooden blocks with white arrows facing opposite to the black arrows. With different concepts to other people. Going for success.
One of the biggest challenges leaders face is facilitating organizational adaptability. Positioning and enabling their organizations—and people—to adapt to an increasingly dynamic environment requires a different type of leadership than in the past—and there is no rulebook.
Historically, the concept of the heroic leader has pervaded western culture. The idea that a single, charismatic leader will “swoop in” and change things for the better has been the idealistic characterization of leadership. Just look at the cover of any news magazine and you’ll find a feature story of a successful individual, but not the team that enabled that person’s success.
Sears’ recent filing of Chapter 11 is a reminder that if you don’t update your change or leadership theories and practices, then change will update you—right toward irrelevance. Below are four considerations for staying relevant in a dynamic business environment:
Update your change theory.
Just as the world of work is constantly evolving, so too are the change and leadership theories that enable work. Unfortunately, many change efforts are rooted in flawed theory, such as the antiquated top-down approach. The notion that a single leader at the top has the power to impact each and every level of the organization by cascading values, goals, and direction is based on the assumption that what leaders see at the top is the same as what employees experience at the bottom. It doesn’t take into account the telephone effect, the emergence of sub-cultures or the dynamism associated with process. Instead, a top-down change effort assumes that the organization is a single, integrated and stable entity that changes as one when a leader at the top imposes a change. Speaking of change...
Shift from change to adaptability.
The assumption associated with “change” is that change begins and then ends. A “change effort,” for example, connotes something temporary; that change will end as soon as the effort behind it is no longer applied (or when everybody passes out from change fatigue). However, change doesn’t end. Ever. In today’s constantly changing environment (“constantly” being the keyword here), there is no “change” per se, only organizational adaptability. Organizational adaptability is the capacity to change and to do so sustainably. However, as recent research demonstrates, organizational adaptability requires a shift in mindset for leaders to focus on long-term performance rather than short-term numbers.
Distinguish between leader and leadership.
Many leadership development programs focus on individual skillsets such as coaching, building a strategic vision or learning how to delegate. While these are helpful for the leader (i.e the individual) they aren’t leadership, per se. The difference between leader and leadership development is that the former focuses on the individual whereas the latter refers to the emergence of value based on interaction. If you want to promote leadership development, afford your leaders opportunities to learn and apply their skill sets while they work. This doesn’t mean scheduling learning into the day on top of the million other to-dos, but rather using techniques such as action learning, collaborative inquiry or appreciative inquiry to produce real results while working on real problems—in real-time. The faster you learn, the sooner you can adapt—and the more relevant you remain.
Clarify the purpose of leadership.
With the surge in cross-functional teams in business today, the role of the leader has shifted from being a single source of authority to being an environmental-enabler who coordinates the integration of disparate functions. One leadership theory distinguishes between three types of leadership:
Administrative leadership. Think of this as the bureaucratic function that coordinates and structures organizational activities.
Adaptive leadership. When a meeting ends with consensus after having started with opposing viewpoints, adaptive leadership was what emerged.
Enabling leadership. This refers to the conditions set forth by leaders to—you guessed it—enable learning, innovation and new behaviors.
Leadership isn’t the same for every person, every instance or every organization. Instead, the purpose of leadership shifts based on the role or situation in which you find yourself.
What's on your "relevance radar?"
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