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Part 3 of 3: Adaptive and Responsive Leadership

Part 3 of 3: Adaptive and Responsive Leadership

Authored by Dipti Batta

In the first two article of this series, we explored the concept of an ‘Adaptive and Responsive’ flavour to strategy formation, planning, budget management, resource management and delivery execution.

We understood the shift in mindsets and behaviours, some of the key ones being:

  • Shift from work to be done to value being delivered.
  • Shift from a big bang delivery approach to a sliced delivery approach.
  • Shift from being risk managed to risk averse.
  • Shift to openly acknowledge low level of confidence and assumptions upfront.
  • Shift from ‘us vs. them’ to ‘we’ across all levels.
  • Shift to adopting minimalistic experimental approaches where necessary.

In business, these mindset and behaviour shifts require the right culture and the right upskilling for required competencies (thereby highlighting the focus on people development). This brings an explicit focus on leadership which plays an important role in ensuring and nurturing these shifts. This concluding article for the three-part series related to ‘Being adaptive and responsive for business resilience’ focuses on the ‘new age’ leadership requirements, with particular emphasis on contributing to the adaptive and responsive maturity of the organisation.

We all understand Leadership as an ability of an individual or a group of individuals that involves:

  • Establishing a clear vision.
  • Sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly.
  • Providing the information, knowledge, and methods to realise that vision, and,
  • Coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.

We also understand that some of the Key Leadership qualities are as follows:

  • Honesty and integrity.
  • Inspire others.
  • Confidence.
  • Commitment and passion.
  • Good communicator.
  • Decision making capabilities.
  • Accountability.
  • Delegation and empowerment.
  • Creativity and innovation.
  • Empathy.

A good leader:

  • Takes the lead.
  • Has personality, courage, and a clear vision with ambition to succeed.
  • Nurtures a culture in which teams are encouraged to perform to their optimum all the time.
  • Ensures effective outcomes towards organisational success.
  • Steps up in times of crisis and can think and act creatively in difficult situations.

All these leadership aspects are recognised and have stood the test of time. These have been hallmarks of good, effective leaders, although not necessarily all leaders. Leaders who sub optimally aligned to the above aspects could still lead teams and manage risks in the earlier decades. The impact of risks related to sub optimal leadership was low due to the nature of work being done, less change and disruption, the mindset of employees within known models and paradigms.

However, what was deemed as good, effective leadership is now the only acceptable form of leadership which needs to be further enhanced to lead teams in current world challenges. Sub optimal leaders from the past decades pose a huge risk to organisational success. Organisations need to ‘Inspect and Adapt’ proven models of leadership to succeed in the current world. Some of the reasons are listed below:

  • The last two decades have seen the world changing at an unprecedented exponential pace. It is a VUCCA world – constant change which introduces volatility, uncertainty, chaos, complexity, and ambiguity.
  • Loads of disruption through innovation leading to enhanced competitor threat.
  • Innovation (which brings us closer to ‘untried’, ‘unknowns’ and ‘unfamiliar’) is not an option anymore in this VUCCA world. It is a prerequisite for survival.
  • More aware customers and employees, more social media revolution enabling connectivity and information exchange at various levels, impacting your customer and employee strategy.

Proven models of leadership in the past decades have catered to the above in one form or the other in a ‘Known and Familiar’ space which had more certainty and stability. However, we need to review the above-mentioned aspects in context of today’s world which is characterised by unknowns and unfamiliarity. Hence the need exists to enhance and prioritise some of the above-mentioned aspects, and that is key for leadership to contribute to organisational success today.

In the current world, organisational success depends on the ability to:

  • Deliver benefit driven, investment optimal, timely, risk managed, sustainable value despite the VUCCA.
  • Be adaptive and responsive across all levels with required synergy.
  • Deal with unknowns/disruptions with speed and yet achieve intended success through collective wisdom and collaboration.
  • Leverage the creative and innovative potential of people.
  • Embrace risk managed experimentation and a proactive ‘measure and manage’ approach.
  • Aim and achieve a high people happiness and work satisfaction index.

Some of the aspects of new age mindset and behaviours (contributing to the desired culture) which are crucial for organisational success are as follows:

  • Commitment to right* value delivery as a team.

* Right value is benefit driven, investment optimal, risk managed, sustainable and scalable (as applicable)

  • Contributing to an environment of trust, support, and respect within the team.
  • Learning and growth mindset over comfort zone.
  • Adaptable and flexible in view of enhancing team delivery.
  • Focus on 'We' rather than 'I'.
  • Effectively contributing to mitigating adverse situations without blame game.
  • Resilience and ‘never give up’ attitude.
  • Being part of the solution rather than problem/viewing constraints as potential opportunities.
  • Leveraging collective wisdom through effective collaboration.
  • Focusing on 'what value is being delivered' over a 'task to be done approach'.
  • Focusing on diverse thinking synergy over diverse thinking conflict.
  • Enhanced sense of ownership, accountability, and self-management.

Some of the crucial new age skills for organisational success are:

  • Effective problem solving.
  • Ensuring early value realisation and feedback loops.
  • Ensuring fit-for-purpose deliveries.
  • Effective usage of, and balance between, experimentation and optimisation.
  • Ensuring benefit driven risk managed progress over risk averse perfection.
  • Managing stakeholder expectations effectively and proactively despite the VUCCA.
  • Adopting a proactive measure and manage approach.
  • Focus on innovative thinking and continuous improvement for waste elimination, proactive risk mitigation and value enhancement.
  • Ability to respond to ‘change’ in the right way.

New age leaders focus on following aspects:

  • Ensuring focus on the right vision, inspecting, and adapting key elements as applicable to the opportunities and threats introduced by VUCCA aspects.
  • Providing clarity of purpose and the journey ahead at any given time despite VUCCA.
  • Forming/influencing collaborative and supportive partnerships within team, with stakeholders and other teams for win-win outcomes.
  • Ensuring viability of team contribution to organisational vision and strategy.
  • Ensuring required insight and foresight to lead people and the organisation towards tangible and intangible measures of success despite VUCCA.
  • Nurturing the above-mentioned desired culture whilst being be a role model for the desired behaviours.
  • Ensuring holistic synergy between desired culture and desired performance for the team.
  • Tapping the best potential of its people through empowerment, providing ‘freedom and space’, providing autonomy coupled with accountability, and delegation of relevant decision making at the lowest responsible level.
  • Guiding, developing, and nurturing skills/competencies in the team to thrive despite VUCCA and be the best version of themselves to contribute effectively to organisational success.
  • Ensuring the team’s focus and commitment to desired value delivery by protecting the team from external and internal threats.
  • Leading people with ‘influence’ and ‘inspiration’ rather than ‘command and control’.
  • Ensuring high team performance, high people happiness index and high work satisfaction index.
  • Creating organisational structure that reinforces and rewards the right approach for the right outcomes.
  • Promoting/nurturing intrapreneurship.
  • Advocating and ensuring a proactive ‘measure and manage’ approach that contributes to enhancing accountability and proactive risk identification/mitigation at all levels.
  • Creating the right environment where experimentation mindset and optimisation mindset work together in synergy to enhance value delivery, proactive risk mitigation and ensure sustainability leading to competitive advantage.

In conclusion, it is crucial for leaders to redefine and upskill themselves for their contribution to organisational success in the current world. The right leadership is a critical success factor for the ability of an organisation to be ‘adaptive and responsive’ to succeed.

Connect with the MAC team to understand how you can reinvent yourself successfully to lead your teams towards the intended success despite the VUCCA challenges.