Future Fit # 20: On becoming an adaptive leader: The unspeakable

TomorrowToday has promised to help you start the journey towards being future fit – to becoming an adaptive leader. Being merely a ‘good leader’ will not suffice when it comes to meeting the challenge of the future. You will need to be a great leader and a ‘great leader’ is someone who understanding and practices adaptive leadership. This is part of a ‘boot camp’ through which we help you begin the journey of becoming future fit; we help you in the process of becoming an adaptive leader. Each ‘session’ is designed around a thought-bullet (Head) and an action point (Hand) – something to think about and something to try out. We have promised to keep the ‘head’ part to under a minute and the practical part (hand)…well, that is up to you.

ladders into the skyFuture Fit # 20: Saying what needs to be said

Adaptive leaders understand that one of their primary responsibilities is saying what no one else wants to say – speaking the unspeakable. Because adaptive leaders operate ‘beneath the waves’ in that they are constantly scanning for the less than obvious clues, attuned to the underlying cultural aspects of that which is happening on the surface, they need to be able to find effective ways to ‘surface’ that which is hidden or being ignored. This is easier said than done and the trick is to be able to say what needs to be said in a way and manner that invited engagement rather than create turmoil. Some leaders are energized by controversy; they enjoy the disruption and because of a lack of perhaps emotional intelligence, such practice can serve to destroy rather than create the conditions conducive to meaningful change and transformation. Smart adaptive leaders understand their role to create disequilibrium but in this, they fully understand their responsibility.  There is a difference between saying things merely to provoke for effect or attention and doing so to lead others in facing the adaptive challenge at hand and stop doing the usual ‘work avoidance’ routine.

Following every meeting in which you participate take five minutes to reflect on what you said that would have brought to the surface things that ‘weren’t being said’. By reflecting on your ‘performance’ in this area you will develop a greater awareness in the meetings to be exercises this important leadership responsibility. It is possible that you have someone on your team who is particularly good at this – saying what needs to be said in a manner that invited engagement – learn from them. You might have someone on your team who has this ability (to say what no one else is willing to say) but does so in an aggressive, challenging way that often leads to a defensiveness on the part of others (this would be a typical ‘Eight’ on the Enneagram if you are familiar with the Enneagram framework). Note what they say and think about how they could learn to say it to better effect. In perhaps assisting them understand and do this, you will also be helping yourself. The more team members you have that are attuned to this – speaking the unspeakable, the better it will be for your conversation, culture and ability to be adaptive as an organisation.

Index of Adaptive Leader series
Click here to see the full list of the Future Fit ‘sessions’

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