Challenges requiring adaptive leadership commonly include conflict in the workplace,
the need for new work behaviors, and a change in mindset.
Difficulty adapting to challenges in the workplace is not new, and as leaders we need to ensure that we influence our teams to continue to support our company values, strategies, and the processes required to achieve operational excellence as we deal with changes across the globe. These changes may be major and impact not only new roles and relationships, but also require new behaviors and approaches for how we work.

Ronald Heifetz (founder of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School) and
and Donald Laurie (corporate adviser), share what they view as the differences between “Technical or Routine Leadership” (Style A) compared to “Adaptive Leadership” (Style B) for the following leadership responsibilities:

Style A – Defines problems and provides solutions
Style B –Identifies the adaptive challenge and frames key questions and issues

Style A – Shields the organization from external threats
Style B – Lets the organization feel external pressures within a range it can stand

Style A – Clarifies roles and responsibilities
Style B – Challenges current roles and resists pressure to quickly define new roles

Style A – Restores order
Style B – Exposes conflict or lets it emerge

Style A – Maintains norms
Style B – Challenges unproductive norms

Does one style sound more like you than the other? Perhaps you’re a blend? Being a leader is not easy and it’s up to us share when and how our work culture values must change, and what’s required of us (and others) to adapt to those changes.

We need to be aware of both the existing challenges that are being faced (as well as the potential challenges), understand when stress exists, when change is being resisted, and encourage open communication.  


Mike and Jan

Getting people to do adaptive work is the mark of leadership in a competitive world.
 Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie