Monday, November 29, 2010

Winning During the Slog - Part 7 – Characteristics of Adaptive Leaders

(from Issues for Growth Vol.19, No.19)

This is the seventh of a series of articles about how companies and individuals are winning during the “The Long, Slow, Hard Economic Slog” that we are in (Issues for Growth Vol. 19, No.13). This article is written by Christy Pearson, PhD, of Opus Leadership , who works with The Mead Consulting Group. – DPM

The recent economic downturn hit many organizations like a slap in the face. Some organizations responded by becoming more focused and attending to the most critical issues, others remained still, shocked by the uncertainties and unprecedented impact on corporate America. The most resilient companies accepted the challenge, adjusting their strategies, business plans and talent to adapt to the new environment. If there is one lesson all can learn from recent events is the need to remain adaptive, responsive, and focused. To adapt to these new demands, CEOs must not only focus on adjusting their business strategy but must also pay equal attention to developing their leadership strategy. A good first step is to ascertain if your organization has the leaders in place to manage presenting problems and this begins with a review of what type of leader is needed.

Characteristics of an Adaptive Leader

· Change ready; adjusts easily to new and different.

· Sets goals for the future; has a long-term view.

· Demonstrates initiative to address presenting and future problems.

· Takes calculated risks, effectively weighs the pros and cons.

· Decisive; has courage to make fast decisions, reaches conclusions quickly.

· Recognizes the need for consistent and frequent communication and does it.

· Seeks out information versus relying on existing data.

· Interpersonally savvy; understands what motivates others, trustworthy and credible.

· Learns quickly, is curious, does not accept the status quo.

· Critical thinker, asks questions versus making assumptions, digs for the root of an issue.

· Sets expectations and provides feedback; is able to have tough conversations when necessary.

Adaptive leaders will assist the CEO and the organization in navigating through these tough times and will help move the organization toward stability. These types of leaders are resilient and possess the necessary capacity and intelligence to address multiple issues and attend to the demands in their area of responsibility. These leadership characteristics are also stable and can be leveraged by organizations not only during the tough times but also once the organization has survived and repositions itself for growth.

What should you do? CEOs must improve their ability to identify the right leaders and determine what skills are needed for their organization to lead under these new circumstances. Increasing this ability depends on the CEO analyzing the current situation and making predictions about future scenarios and determining what skills, behaviors and competencies are required to implement business strategy. CEOs must also determine their leadership risk; what is the likelihood that the organization does not have the right leaders to grow and adapt with the organization and what impact will this have on the business. While these are not easy tasks, CEOs cannot afford to do nothing, to just keep leaders stuck in the past and unable to adapt to this new normal. For organizations to be able to effectively adjust, they must first have the type of leaders who can anticipate the need for a change, identify the appropriate response and lead the organization to its new direction.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” ~W. Edwards Deming

Are You Up to the Task? It’s a new business environment and CEOs and other key leaders must develop the skills to adapt and evolve as their business as the world changes. What worked in the past may no longer be relevant and CEOs must first look to its leadership to determine if they have the right skills to address these new challenges. In the end, business success relies on a combination of the right strategy to address new business challenges and the right talent to move the organization forward. There is a growing list of companies and leaders who didn’t make the cut (AIG, Freddie Mac, Circuit City, Hollywood Video, Sharper Image) and those that did (Intel, Google, Apple,, Qualcomm). Which list do you want to be on?

Next: Is Developing an Adaptable Culture Too Hard? How Can I Get Started? Next article will deal with the ways that certain factors can prevent you and your company from developing an adaptable culture.

Some companies are experiencing significant “new thinking” results. What are you doing to change how you think about your business and create a culture of adaptability? Let us know your comments.

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