How Adaptive Leadership can help you get through tough times

Leadership is not a magic status that becomes a stamp on your resume or a badge you wear to business meetings. It is not a seminar to follow, a book to read, or an idea to be tossed around in the realms of “someday” or “maybe.”

Leadership is a choice to be made consistently and consciously.

It comes with a responsibility. It brings a leader lots of good moments but also a good dose of doubts, questions, and struggles.

2023 just started, yet it already promised to offer a wide range of issues and crises to deal with. Leadership skills that used to work are clearly not any longer. The old recipes need a solid revamp.

In 2023 and beyond, successful leaders are those who will add vulnerability, authenticity, empathy, and humanity to their leadership toolbox. Leaders who choose to adapt at the moment will be well-equipped for the journey ahead, no matter the changes that are on the horizon.

Adaptive Leadership

I was recently invited to give a talk to the leadership team of a company undergoing a major transformation. As I prepared for my session, I reflected upon my own major transformations and realized that I had gained so many skills to navigate the tumultuous waters of leadership. Challenges like leading organizations through dozens of mergers and acquisitions, supporting management changes, and withstanding financial crises were all difficult at the moment but now provide a fresh perspective on how important it is to be adaptive in the face of uncertainty or change.

The events of the past few years have not made leadership any easier. With the Great Resignation, the prevalence of “quiet quitting,” increased difficulty in attracting – and keeping – competent people to run our operations, clients who operate with longer feedback, turnaround, and decision-making times…the effects of uncertainty are far-reaching.

The one constant? What used to work doesn’t work any longer.  This situation is far from temporary, as predictions are holding that we will not be reverting back to the way business and operations ran less than five years ago.

Facing the Future of Leadership

The question stands: How can you move forward, consistently adapting to changing market conditions, while keeping your values intact? The following values serve to guide you into the future of leadership in business by powerfully encouraging you to step into your own future. The nature of leadership must evolve. 

“As leaders, we all have changed. We all have learned how important it is to lead with empathy and build a different level of trust with our employees.”

Enrique Lores, CEO of HP Inc

It all starts with you. Yes, make yourself your #1 priority.

There is no way that we can efficiently and effectively lead, support, and help others grow if we are not taking care of ourselves first.Yet, our beliefs will sometimes make us believe that helping others come first, that a good leader is one who is never tired, doubtful, concerned, sick… it’s time to put yourself first. This is not selfish, it’s strategic!

Scan through your calendar or agenda over the past few weeks, and inventory the number of hours you have dedicated to your physical and emotional well-being. If you’re hearing crickets – and that number is far lower than you know is the best practice for you to show up as only you can – it’s time to implement some new techniques. To show up powerfully in leadership, we need to feel good in our bodies and have clarity in our minds. 

This choice is not about being selfish or fragile; rather, intentionally caring for your own well-being is a strategic move that creates balance in your own life. Because you serve as an example simply by being in a leadership position, you have the opportunity and the duty to leverage that position to adopt and demonstrate appropriate habits that serve you. Your teams will do the same.

“Mastering others is strength; mastering oneself is true power”

Lao Tsu.

Know yourself.

Whether the uncertainty that lies ahead stems from change, an improvement, or a need for adaptation, the solution always begins with building a more acute awareness of the situation. As we say, “we don’t know what we don’t know.” In the case of leadership, this means getting to know yourself in a way you haven’t done before.

Take the time to discover your strengths, your talents, your foundational principles, and your driving forces. Discover the elements of life and work that boost your confidence and energy and pinpoint the situations, the activities, and the people that drain them.

A coach can help you understand what your unique positioning is and uncover those strengths that may be hidden, even from your view! Moving forward with a clear vision of your life that is aligned with your values and passions is the best way to stay grounded when uncertainty or change comes your way.

Embrace uncertainty.

Notice how your stress response creeps into your work and your life. Pause. Breathe. This will help you begin to face your fears with courage. Understanding how you process fear and stress will help you relabel these fears as simply…fears. Not truths. Remember: You don’t have to keep them.

Ask yourself: Are this fear and negative emotion associated with it serving as a warning of danger? Are they helping me strengthen my resilience, or are they blocking me into a zone of discomfort and paralysis? So many brilliant leaders (like you!) are stuck in a state of fear or stress when worries of failure, criticism, and career impact take the place of creativity and innovation.

Embracing your vulnerability and fears while working with a trusted coach or advisor will help you understand where your fears may be coming from. It will allow you to change your perspective and find out the role they play in your mindset. Letting go of your past and embracing your new vision will allow you to be the leader the world needs tomorrow.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

Brené Brown

Upskill yourself.

Multi-generational and multi-cultural teams expect leaders to demonstrate empathy, authenticity, and vulnerability. It is expected of you to clearly portray a business vision in a way that empowers and instills resilience throughout the company.  This doesn’t happen by miracle and overnight. Modern leadership development includes learning new strategies to facilitate collaboration, adapting to employees’ expectations, and prioritizing company culture.

There are a number of ways to speed up your ability to lead the new workforce, but none are as compelling and efficient as hiring an executive mentor or coach. Working with an experienced mentor ensures that you apply your leadership skills in a different way, addressing the myriad challenges that we face today with a new perspective rather than trying to learn an entirely new set of skills. Upgrade yourself on understanding industry trends, adopt an open mind to new technologies and habits, and explore digital skills that translate what has worked in the past to what will work in the future.

“Don’t show up to prove. Show up to improve.”


Nurture your network.

Networking is a powerful art.

We often think of networking as an activity we embark on when looking for a new job. That is a very limited view of what networking can bring.

Building and nurturing a wide and prolific professional network ensures you gain knowledge, inspiration, clients, power partners, investors, and more; it links you into a world of connection and possibility. Networking with peers from other industries will enhance your visibility and reputation while challenging you to open up your horizon and learn transferable skills as you build relationships.

You will have understood it by now. Networking is not a nice to have but a must do.

Whether you network at a conference, at a professional forum, or even better one on one with someone you haven’t seen for a long time, or a new person you just connected with, each of these opportunities are to be learnt and practiced. Once you know the way, one thing is left: enjoy every minute of it, and it will be magical.

“Networking is not just about connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.”

Michele Jennae

And finally: It’s not all about work.

Life is about life. Your work life, your family life, your friends, your passions, your hobbies. Life is about exploring. Traveling. Dancing. Reading. Walking in nature. Moving your body. Creating and appreciating art.

Life doesn’t exist in strategic plans or operating procedures. Life is the present moment.

“The great leaders are not the strongest, they are the ones who are honest about their weaknesses. The great leaders are not the smartest; they are the ones who admit how much they don’t know. The great leaders can’t do everything; they are the ones who look to others to help them. Great leaders don’t see themselves as great; they see themselves as human.”

Simon Sinek

Inspired to delve into the world of self-leadership? We can help! Dominique Ben Dhao of Point North International is well-versed in best practices for unlocking your leadership potential through reflection and action. Reach out to meet your new executive mentor!

Get updates and learn from the best

Share This Post

More To Explore