Adaptive Leadership

Evolving to Thrive in Complex Environments

Adaptive Leadership - Evolving to Thrive in Complex Environments

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Adapt to your environment during turbulent times, or you’ll get left behind.

In 2003, competition in the U.S. consumer electronics market was particularly fierce, with Wal-Mart®, Target® and Costco® threatening to take market share from perennial leaders, Best Buy® and Circuit City®.

A Best Buy vice president, Julie Gilbert, recognized that her organization had missed an important opportunity to increase sales. Historically, it had focused on young, male customers, and it had ignored the significant influence that women had in the market.

Following this insight, Best Buy made its stores more appealing to female customers. It widened the aisles for baby strollers, softened the harsh lighting, and lowered the volume of the background music. Four years on, it had achieved a $4.4 billion increase in revenue from female customers – an 11 percent rise in its total revenue – much of which was credited to Gilbert's change in strategy.

Like Best Buy, all businesses must adapt to different environments, whether these come from changes in technology, customer expectations, laws and regulations, or employees' expectations. Leaders must find ways to adapt and take advantage of the opportunities that these changes bring.

So what's the best way to do this? One useful strategy is to take an adaptive leadership approach. In this article we'll explore what adaptive leadership is, and we'll think about how you can use it to manage unexpected challenges in your business environment.

What Is Adaptive Leadership?

In his 1994 book, "Leadership Without Easy Answers," Ron Heifetz, a Harvard University professor, described adaptive leadership as a set of strategies and practices you can use to overcome obstacles, accomplish meaningful change, and adapt to challenging and complex environments [1]....

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