Effective Adaptive Leadership

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.“ — John Quincy Adams

If you are seeking to make your leadership effective even in the face of adaptive challenges, the following few posts will identify key factors you can apply to your own leadership development.  These posts will be helpful even if you are not in a recognized position of leaders, for as we will see, true leadership does not depend upon organizational position.  Effective leaders lead from wherever they are.

Kouzes and Posner, in their pivotal book, “The Leadership Challenge,” postulated that everyone is eligible to lead. If this is true, it follows that leadership is in some way everyone’s business.  Certainly, not everyone is equipped to be a leader, and there are countless stories of people in position of leadership who have failed miserably if not spectacularly.  Some would have us believe that leadership is innate, and that effective leaders are “born” into success.  Only those gifted with the natural abilities will rise to the challenge of effective leadership.

That is not the case, state Kouzes and Posner, who go on to explain how leadership is a learnable skill-set, and that given the right motivation and skills training, anyone can be effective as a leader.  If they are correct (and I think they are), this helps us understand why true leadership can be found anywhere in an organization or enterprise, not just in positions of organizational or hierarchical management. 

In fact, many of the most effective leaders are found not at the top but in the middle, often in positions not designated as leadership posts.  They are quietly getting the good work of leadership done, and are recognized for their contributions by their peers, though often not by their superiors.

Think back on the situations you have been in where you have experienced the positive influence of a team member who was not in a designated leadership position.  We have all experienced this.  We have also experienced the person in the designated leadership position whose influence on the team was less than positive. 

Sadly, there are many of these positional leaders in the field, the ones who do not build up people and teams but focus on other management priorities.  Often those other priorities are at least in part in support of their own role and reputation.

If everyone is eligible to lead and leadership can be anyone’s business, if leadership is a learnable skillset and many good leaders lead without title or position, what then is the nature and expression of effective leadership?  Following in this and future posts are some identifiers of effective leadership, especially leadership that effectively meets the adaptive challenge.

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