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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Leadershp: Heifetz Post #5

The Work of Leadership by Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie (originally published in the HBR, 1997). Adapting to change has gone from an interesting concept to a critical activity of any company or organization hoping to compete in a dynamic global market. The authors offer six (6) principles for adaptation, spanning the threat of doing nothing to the threat of actually doing something. Clearly, according to the authors, adaptive leadership is not without its risks to management. Nonetheless, the authors offer the following suggestions. First, get on the balcony: if you spend too much time in the weeds (the dance floor), it’s hard to see the big picture. Second, identify the adaptive challenge. Finding out the “real” problem by talking to the various stakeholders before trying to solve the issue is critical. Third, regulate stress. Too little stress and people slip back to the comfort of the status quo, but too much stress and people become frazzled. Fourth, maintain disciplined attention. Don’t let people stay on the surface and get petty with each other. Keep them focused on the underlying tough issues. Fifth, give the work back to the employees. Don’t take on the problem, but encourage employees to take chances and, when they fail, support them, dust them off, and send them back in for another try. Sixth, protect leadership voices from below. Don’t quell dissenters or whistleblowers. Rather, ask “What’s s/he really saying?”

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