reading between the lines
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In the surreal world of UK politics I find myself strangely fascinated by the spectacle of the leader of our country being chosen against a set of completely undefined criteria – would any CEO be selected this way?
I suspect it is useless speculation to imagine what these criteria might be, but this blog offers a few thoughts on ‘adaptive leadership’ – brought about by a belief that many commonly stated leadership frameworks are inadequate for today’s workplace with its different expectations and needs. I have based it on an article of mine in the June 2019 edition of theHR Director*.
Adaptive leadership is founded on a mindset that welcomes diversity. This is not the narrow definition of diversity which often ends up with either perceived or genuine tokenism and comments like ‘the HRD is our diversity champion’, but rather an openness to different ways of doing things. Counter-intuitively, the closer a leader gets to the ‘top of the pyramid’ the more open their mindset must be.
Three shifts in thinking will be needed for the new generation of leaders:
- Adaptive leaders will combine strategic focus with ‘softer’ skills in empathy, listening and particularly humility – underpinned by a level of behavioural self-awareness that sets the tone for the wider business context;
- ‘Great teams’ replace ‘great leaders’. The adaptive leader will harvest not only data and all its opportunities, but the diversity of all those around them. Rather than trying, with super-human skills, to master every detail they will not pretend to have every answer themselves. Adaptive leaders don’t worry about status or rank – they just want the best result;
- A clearer social benefit to work. John Ruskin’s term ‘the honest merchant’ sums this up and addresses the idea of business having a clear purpose beyond the making of money. Social impact touches everything from the impact on the environment, payment of taxes, employee burn-out and fair wages, to name but a few.
The New Wave of Adaptive Leadership
Adaptive leaders are not those who are trying to establish a ‘fluffy’ heaven on earth with no idea of cost – an unrealistic pipedream that leads to business failure. Rather, they possess a combination of the ‘conventional’ skills of being able to understand context, set clear direction and lead effective execution, with an open mindset that welcomes diversity and the ability to create a culture that reflects it.
If our next UK Prime Minister is to be more successful than our last, then they will need to open to change – rather than assuming they simply embody it.
To read a copy of the article in the June 2019 edition of HR Director magazine, please get in touch.
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