Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Adaptive leadership and thriving in the face of change 1: starting a new series

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 22, 2013

Anyone who has even just occasionally followed this blog and its ongoing flow of postings has probably noticed that there are certain central-theme topics that I keep returning to. One of them is innovation, and promoting and fostering creative excellence and both for the individual in their work and career, and for the organization. Another is leadership, and I write about that from several basic directions. I write in general terms about it and about the qualities and traits that define it. I also write about it as a best practices aspect of management, and as a capacity for leadership as developed through a range of positions and levels of responsibility as you proceed up the table of organization, and as you meet a progression of specific work responsibilities and challenges. In a fundamental sense, this series that I begin here, can be seen as filling a gap between those at times seemingly very distinct approaches to what leadership is and what it requires.

• Effective leadership builds from a solid and stable core; people follow the lead of and gain inspiration from working with leaders who create and sustain a solid and reliable anchor point for their organization and for the people they work with, and for their customers and clients. This stable core and its reliability instill trust and confidence.
• But at the same time effective leadership must be responsive to change and adaptable to it. Effective leadership is not and cannot simply be frozen and static. Effective leaders help those they lead to better address and even thrive in the face of emerging challenges and opportunities and they display flexibility and resiliency in their own actions and decisions in doing that.
• There is a solid, consistent core to leadership that can be counted upon to consistently and reliably be there and even in the midst of crisis; there is capacity to change and to evolve to meet changing needs, and as a business grows and evolves and as its marketplace and its surrounding communities do too – and though slow and evolutionary change and in the face of rapidly emerging and disruptive change too.

This series seeks to at least begin a discussion of this dichotomy, and of what would go into solid and stable, and what would go into flexible and adaptable – and when and how the boundaries between them should change. That shift and how it is managed, I add, can serve as a positive or a negative and I will discuss both sides to that too.

And I start this with the absolute fundamentals and with an observation that is about as basic as any that I could offer here:

• Leaders, like those around them, are people. And they carry within themselves the same ranges of skills and experiences and strengths, and of blind spots and weaknesses and unexamined assumptions as anyone else.
• Learning to be an effective leader is in many respects learning about oneself, and about growing into a greater capacity to take on responsibilities that will have real impact upon others while doing so.
• This means knowing progressively more and more about what we hold central to ourselves, and what we can and will change and evolve within us in the face of changing circumstance. And it means coming to terms with the fact that we will make mistakes as well as succeed, and that that and in both of its sides tells us where we need to hold constant and why, and what we need to change and the how and why for that too.

Effective leadership begins with understanding yourself. You cannot effectively lead others if you do not know yourself and understand your preferences and your comfort zones, and how they impact upon others. These arise from your personality and are shaped by your own ongoing experience, good and bad – and they might be very different from those of people you work with.

• Growing as a leader, like growing as a person, is about self-understanding and about understanding others.
• Both are about learning, and from our failures as well as from our successes.
• Both are about reconciling and aligning sometimes disparate and seemingly conflicting goals and needs as they arise from different and even multiple directions.

When I think back to my own experience working with and managing others, and my experience as a consultant where I have worked with others as managers and leaders, one lesson that replicably comes back to me is the importance of the points that I raise here. Startup founders as a case in point, who are so caught up in their own goals and their own sense of self that they cannot or will not see others for their needs and goals: the founding members of their own startup teams included, do not generally do very well as startup leaders.

• All leadership best practices, whether general and even generic or task and circumstance-specific in nature, stem from self-understanding and from understanding others – and from seeing and understanding and reconciling the differences that arise in collectively working towards a single set of collectively shared goals.

Ultimately, our solid and fixed core comes from within us. Our flexibility and our capacity to change come from within us too. And both are shaped in detail and as they are realized, by changing circumstance and by our own needs and the needs of the people and the organizations that we work with and seek to lead. I am going to at least begin discussing that as a set of issues in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and related at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and Business Strategy and Operations – 2 and at the first page of that directory. You can also find related postings and series at Social Networking and Business and at HR and Personnel. And you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development. You can also find this in Social Networking and Business as I will be connecting this series’ discussion to postings and series offered there too.

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