Navigating Uncertainty and Crisis: The Art of Adaptive Leadership

Leading in turbulent times is not easy.

Navigating crisis and change, like a recession or restructuring of an organization or roles, requires that we feel human and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and adaptive. Organizations must learn and practice adaptive leadership to survive change and keep innovation on the horizon. By learning and developing adaptive leadership behaviors, businesses can harness the talent around them, survive change, and continue innovating for the future.

What is adaptive leadership?

Adaptive leadership is an approach to solving business issues and challenges, such as the pandemic and its impact on your business. A key aspect of adaptive leadership is how it mobilizes people to handle tough challenges and changes, adapt to them, and emerge triumphantly. Adaptive work means being immersed in unexpected and uncomfortable situations to the extent that making sense of your inner tensions is necessary to help you regain balance and renew your perspectives.

Adaptive leadership is not rule-bound, but there are behaviors to cultivate. It is an ongoing learning and experimentation process, requiring you to stretch your creativity, imagination, and courage to build resilience and confront ambiguity. To become an effective and adaptive leader, here are several behaviors you should consider developing.

Gain momentum and understand yourself and your team

You need help navigating uncertainty and chaos –and it definitely takes a village! It’s best to gain momentum by focusing on your people – those that fuel and energize the organization – and your deeper values and beliefs of the job.

When you understand those deeper values and beliefs, you learn to anchor yourself in them and become more reflective and realistic about how a complex situation can impact your work. Additionally, constant reflection on who you are and what you stand for could give you the courage to lead and your momentum as a leader.

Next, harness your team members’ gifts and talents by listening and getting to know them better. Empower people to step outside their comfort zones and challenge them to apply their talents, even during hard times. Adaptive leadership is about becoming more of yourselves, accepting and embodying complexity, and recognizing and harnessing existing talent to make a positive change. Once you accomplish this, your team can collectively push through and survive anything that comes their way.

Engage others to make difficult decisions

When a crisis hits, many people are gripped by fear due to concerns about job security or uncertainty of the “new normal.” Unfortunately, these fears can cause stagnancy in an employee’s personal and professional growth. When this happens, people can become afraid of making difficult decisions, meaning it’s time for leaders to engage team members, so everyone can come to terms with their inner conflict and resist resistance. To engage your people:

  • Construct genuine conversations through empathy and compassion.
  • Turn their inner conflict into a source of energy for positive change.
  • Promote a culture of open sharing and learning. For instance, you could turn their inner conflict into learning opportunities to gain deeper insights into their work. You can also provide examples of how you overcame challenges and kept pushing forward in spite of them.

When you do these three things, you’re actively helping employees regain their confidence as they turn their fears into a source of strength. Helping others accept their fear of work and the future engages people to make tough decisions, and it is essential to help others resist resistance to make the change.

Mobilize shared knowledge through experimentation

When adapting to a crisis, leaders must mobilize their people to act. It’s crunch time! You must combine strategic thinking with an empathetic connection to bring people along with you. Once you do that, you can bring people together to develop shared knowledge, challenge others to ask bold, critical questions, test assumptions, and create a space for generating innovative ideas through experimentation. Here are a few specific things you can do to build your team’s shared knowledge:

  • Create a reflective space for people to develop innovative ideas and explore solutions.
  • Turn problem-solving into a collaborative and exploratory adventure, allowing people to challenge their logic and view things from different perspectives.
  • Help others identify what matters most to the situation and what ideas can be experimented on.
  • Share lessons learned and foster a community of learning.

Trust your personal instincts and lead courageously

For an organization to survive uncertainty, it needs strong leadership to lead the employees as a collective force. Don’t hold back! It’s time you trust your instincts to start leading courageously again. To do this:

  • Increase your awareness of self and others to connect more deeply to your inner senses.
  • Create reflective moments to search for deeper meaning as a leader.
  • Confront fear and transform it as courage to take bolder steps and greater risks.

The key here is to learn to trust your instincts because the deeper voice—your intuition — reconnects you with the core of who you are as a person and what you want to achieve as a leader. Once you achieve these three, your experience will make you more aware of your surroundings and conscious of the future. People who honor their instincts often know what to do, how to do it, and who to ask for help. So trust yourself!

Be the adaptive leader

One of the most important benefits of developing these behaviors is how they create a snowball effect. Each behavior can enhance strengths and characteristics, such as empathy, self-awareness, flexibility, vulnerability, perseverance, collaboration, and transparency. For example, when leaders commit to sharing their information and mobilizing collective action, they show collaboration and openness, and they demonstrate vulnerability and perseverance when they commit to continuous learning and letting go of what they used to know.

The best adaptive leaders recognize that mistakes will likely be made and actively use them to identify shared learning opportunities. They maximize their learning and exchange lessons learned openly and transparently; ultimately, they foster loyalty and trust from others.

There is always room for personal and professional growth, so sit down and reflect on what changes you need to make to become a more effective, adaptive leader.


Content provided by Q4intelligence

Photo by phloxii