Adaptive Leadership - Empathy and Empowerment

Adaptive Leadership – Empathy and Empowerment

In my last series of blogs, I explored the “Give It Up” model whereby true leaders need to move from a command and control style of leadership and towards one of delegation and trust.

Not only do leaders need to give up control, they need to become adaptive leaders and be able to chart a course when they cannot predict the outcome of their choices.

My Adaptive Leadership Model below illustrates what a leader has to undertake to become an adaptive leader.

Empathy and mutual trust

Adaptive leaders lead with empathy. They are able to see situations through the eyes of others. They are able to put themselves in another person’s shoes. The challenge for the leader is not to think about how they would feel in someone else’s shoes but how the other person feels in their own shoes.

Leaders continually need to ask ‘Are you ok?’ or ‘Is everything ok?’ Leaders need to be good listeners, impartial, and possess emotional intelligence. They allow another person to speak without constant interruption. They focus on what the person is saying and avoid distractions. They are impartial and non-judgemental; they put aside the fact they may believe what is being discussed is right or wrong.

They are emotionally intelligent. They are able to rise above the emotion in the conversation and put aside their feelings and the feelings of the other person to view the situation subjectively. The emotions in the conversation do not control the outcome.

Empathy is key in building trust. When employees know leaders will listen to them and take their thoughts and feelings into consideration, even if they don’t initially agree with them, they will trust their leader.

When organizations have adaptive leaders, employees will share and openly contribute so the knowledge and experience of the entire workforce can be leveraged.

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Empowerment – allow teams to execute

Adaptive leaders do not enforce rules and strict instructions on employees. When change is relentless and dynamic, we need a workforce that is empowered to make decisions and take action.

When employees have autonomy, they can react to situations intuitively and they will step up and lead. Therefore, the role of the adaptive leader is to create a shared sense of purpose, ensure consistent interpretation, and then get out of the way.

Adaptive leaders don’t watch the clock to check the hours people are working. They recognize accomplishments not hours worked. It is about deliverables at work not duration at work.

Empowerment impacts the engagement of the team, which will also impact productivity.

Game score

Leadership in the face of volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous change has to be adaptive.

Adaptive leaders need to know when to operate in the fray, and when to get off the field and watch from the sideline.

They will embrace losing a game as a learning opportunity and the team will bounce back ready to play the next game. They will have empathy and be able to walk in another’s shoes to understand their perspective. Players are inspired to be accountable and make decisions.

Adaptive leaders expect and embrace change. It is their reality. The teams they build are dynamic and embrace change, and they channel any uncertainty into positive outcomes through collaboration and communication.

Adaptive leaders clearly articulate their intent and then let the players get on with the game. The players will ultimately win or lose the game.

In subsequent posts in this series I will be exploring the additional elements of the Adaptive Leadership model.

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