“Ceaseless change is the only constant thing in nature.” John Candee Dean
Change happens. Change comes upon us personally in various forms. It may be surprising and good. Change is often unexpected, and for many, unwelcomed. It may be uncomfortable for us, leading to disequilibrium.
Change is often perceived as loss. Yet change is also inevitable. “The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it,” said Marcus Aurelius.
Personal growth is change that leads to fulfillment and positive influence and impact. One way of looking at growth is that it is change we pursue. This kind of positive change can happen even during events that are challenging. Unfortunately, there are those who rarely seek positive change in difficult times.
Growth can come as we embrace the challenges and discomforts, seeking strength and betterment in them. This includes the difficult, burdensome, and even painful challenges. Choosing to embrace the challenges and seek the betterment, and ultimately the healing, turn challenges into adaptive opportunities.
Growth, then, involves leveraging the challenges we cannot avoid, turning them into opportunities for growth. “Growth is the only evidence of life.” said John Henry Newman, and his words ring true. Whether in the individual or the organization, our difficulties, burdens, and even pain can propel us toward growth and positive outcomes.
One core quality of effective leadership is the ability to be adaptive in the face of challenge and change. The effective leader is always seeking to be adaptive, considering how to be proactive in working with challenges and shaping opportunities for the good of the people being led.
For this to happen, we must think beyond surviving and seek to thrive in the change process. We must work with challenging forces of change. Doing so is an intentional, strategic process. The process is weighted heavily toward encouraging and empowering the team members to grow and ultimately thrive. Indeed, the organization is no more than the team.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced. … Most of us are about as eager to change as we were to be born and go through our changes in a similar state of shock.” James Baldwin
Adaptive leaders constantly scan the horizon and the team for emerging challenges, helping the team to meet the change proactively, embracing and leveraging them for personal and team growth.
The words of Kent Beck: “The business changes. The technology changes. The team changes. The team members change. The problem isn’t change, per se, because change is going to happen; the problem, rather, is the inability to cope with change when it comes.” Leadership fails when it does not lead the team to adaptive solutions and growth. For leaders facing inevitable and difficult change, growth is the evidence of life.
Over the next few posts we will explore adaptive leadership and the characteristics and qualities of effective, adaptive leaders.