Meeting 21st Century leadership challenges – being adaptable and self-aware

August 29, 2013 by · View Comments 

Print Friendly Print Get a PDF version of this webpage PDF

Senior Executive Coaching: Senior Team Coaching working with leaders and senior teams to help them achieve excellence.

Following on from my last thoughts on leading in a radically transparent world, there are two key traits that are crucial for 21st century leaders – they are Adaptability and Self Awareness. With the marketplace changing so radically, leaders need to be ready to learn fast and shift quickly. The leader’s job is to help the organisation develop the capacity to adapt; a much bigger task than to clarify a vision and drive towards it. The choices are hard, especially when letting go of some core values and beliefs that have worked until now. What is needed is a focus on the current situation and to keep asking what is working and to learn from mistakes – to be ready for what will happen next.

We will all remember Ken Blanchard, co-author of the One Minute Manager and I couldn’t agree with him more, when he says leaders need to look in the mirror first, but you would expect me to say that being an executive coach! “The journey of leadership is first taking a look at yourself,” he explains. “Then you’re ready to deal one-on-one, then you can take over a team, and then an organization.”

Let’s look at Adaptability first; it is not just a ‘nice to have’ competence; it is a competitive advantage for you as a leader and for your organization. There is a well-known Chinese proverb that says the wise adapt themselves to circumstances, just as water moulds itself to whatever vessel it is in.

The ability to change (or be changed) to fit new circumstances is a crucial skill for leaders. Adaptive Leaders have the characteristics associated with clear direction with committed ambition – a strongly seductive characteristic in individuals that others want to follow. They exert strategic influence on their environment; are active in pursuing opportunities for the organisation within a complex environment; foresee opportunities; are personally flexible and entertain diverse views and opinions.

Adaptive Leaders are willing to experiment, and take calculated risks; they encourage innovation and have a style that is personally open. They learn how to follow, and followers learn how to lead. This is the essence of the approach.

Self-Awareness on the other hand is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self- Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment. Why do we need to develop greater self-awareness now – so we can make changes in how we think and not be stuck in old patterns. Changing our thinking allows us to change our emotions and reactions. Self-awareness is the first step in creating what we want and mastering where we focus our attention, our emotions, reactions, personality and behaviour, determining where we go in life. Until we are aware of this, we will find it difficult to respond appropriately to the challenges of the 21st century.

And my last question – how do YOU assess your own leadership strengths, learn how you can play to those, work on improving the weaker areas; or do you hire people whose strengths will complement your own and learn from each other – it’s interesting times!

Caroline Donaldson

Caroline Donaldson

About Caroline Donaldson

Caroline Donaldson has written 12 articles on this blog.

Founding director of Kynesis

blog comments powered by Disqus