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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Adaptive Leadership: The Challenge

This is the 2nd of a series of posts based on my review of Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading ((Harvard Business School Press, 2002).

Of all the books I’ve read and reviewed on leadership, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading would be one of the top 10 books I’d recommend to any leader—from first line manager to CEO.

The Leadership Challenge

1. It’s not change that people fear but the loss of something they hold dear like their basic beliefs, values or favorite practices. When you mess with what I want—I feel loss and push back at YOU the leader.

2. Adaptive Change is what I call transformational. It’s like the doctor telling you that you need to lose weight and exercise. You want to take a pill so you can eat like a horse and not look like an elephant. Won’t work. So, you change doctors. Who really loses on that one? Nonetheless that’s at the core of this concept. We don’t like hard change but will opt for the easy solution….a technical one: A pill--surface change, a sham masquerading as a solution.

3. Push-back: When people are confronted by a leader introducing such tough adaptive change (to change their ways of doing things), they feel a sense of intense disequilibrium and try to re-balance that feeling by attacking, seducing (intellectually), marginalizing, and diverting leaders of that change.

--Seduction comes from those who support you. They want you to tone it down. Most people love and are drawn by the status quo…what is and not what might be.

--Attacking comes from people who don’t really hate you but hate the role you’re playing which is forcing them to change…which they don’t want to do.

--Marginalizing is another tactic to somehow get an adaptive leader’s voice blunted so it won’t be allowed to be heard. Bosses and subordinates do this through any number of ways, undermining, passive resistance, etc.

--Diverting, like the other push-back techniques is all about taking the adaptive leader off his or her game…out of the picture. Throwing up roadblocks, starting coalitions, and generally tossing rocks in the road to impede progress find their way to the fore.

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