March 2019 Business SCAN
It’s easy to forget that people are different, and yet as leaders we tend to deliver the same leadership style that we are most comfortable with or which has worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, some leaders never change and remain locked into a single style of behaviour that can be inappropriate, sometimes trapped in delivering an inflexible leadership style that reinforces micro-management and reduces the potential of the team to innovate and realise their own full potential.
We hope this Hot Topic will stimulate both interest and discussion, whilst also helping you adapt to new ideas and strategies relating to innovative leadership practices.
Adapting to the Unexpected
Originally referred to as “situational leadership” smart-adaptive leadership involves the conscious decision to manage your own behaviour in order to positively influence others and ultimately, get good results.
However, the ability to adapt to unexpected situations and get the best out of individuals isn’t always easy. To elaborate, let’s take a look at some of the lessons taken from leaders in the military, whose ability to be adaptable is not only advantageous, but imperative.
Lesson 1: Remember that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Whilst it’s important to remain professional, don’t be afraid to be personable. The ability to get to know your team as individuals as opposed to a collective is one which is all too often overlooked. Even the smallest of gestures to demonstrate that you value each person as an individual have a big impact on collective motivation and staff retention.
Lesson 2: Be decisive. When the unexpected occurs it’s important that you demonstrate the ability to act, whilst avoiding being labelled as “too cavalier” or overly “laissez-faire”. It’s a delicate balance and one which is often achieved through experience. Over time, you learn to act on intuition as opposed to instinct.
Lesson 3: See the mission through. The mission is the priority, however, to complete your mission successfully, you need to get the best out of each member of your team. Ensure everyone clearly understands what is trying to be achieved and more importantly the underlying processes which underpin individual, team and broader organisational success. Additionally, always strive for congruence between individual and organisational values.
Lesson 4: The map is not the territory. Give your team a direction but be flexible in regard to how they choose to get to the final destination. Leadership research often highlights the importance of autonomy and freedom for creativity when attempting to successfully fulfil strategic and organisational objectives.
A Guide to Crisis Management
There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes…and adversity. The ability to respond to adversity represents a key facet of adaptive leadership. Whether it be Samsung having to quickly react to their exploding phone saga or Uber having to respond to allegations of sexism and gender bias, when a crisis hits (and eventually it will), it’s important to always be prepared. So, when the proverbial does hit the fan, remember the following steps:
Step 1: Recognise warning signs
Crises can either be smouldering (develop over time) or sudden. As such, some crises are more difficult to respond to than others. Learn to recognize the early warning signs of an impending crisis, rather than bury your head in the sand, whilst hoping the storm will pass.
Step 2: Be analytical
Trust your ability to engage in a quick but systematic analysis of the present issue before acting. Don’t be afraid to call upon the views of others at this point.
Step 3: Initiate action
Direct your team in a confident and decisive way, whilst remaining receptive to new ideas which may be presented.
Step 4: Develop contingency plans
Forget relying on plan A, ensure plan B, C and D have also be discussed and explored. A crisis is rarely straightforward, be prepared for the unexpected.
Step 5: Keep stakeholders informed
As the classic saying goes “honesty is the best policy” this is particularly true in times of crisis. Ensure key stakeholders are aware of the issues and more importantly the strategies being employed to resolve them.
Step 6: Evaluate, reflect and repeat
Ask yourself these essential questions: What was the issue? How did we respond? What did we do well? What do we need to improve on? What will we do differently/better next time?
Sources: Northouse, P. G. (2017). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice. Sage Publications.
Useem, M. (2010). Four lessons in adaptive leadership. Harvard business review, 88(11), 86-90.
Yukl, G., & Mahsud, R. (2010). Why flexible and adaptive leadership is essential. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 62(2), 81.
Think of crises you have experienced within your organisation. Going through the six steps presented above, how effectively do you feel you dealt with the crises and consider what you could have done differently.
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