Opinion

A Call For Adaptive Change Approach To Leadership 

Siddharth Rajgarhia
A Call For Adaptive Change Approach To Leadership 

The impact of the impending pandemic has been observed across the globe. All the major sectors of the economy were affected by the Covid-19 crisis and the education sector unfortunately was amongst the worst hits. Around 32 crore learners stopped moving to schools/colleges, all educational activities halted in India. 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has advised us that change is inevitable. It seems as if the outbreak has worked as a catalyst for the educational institutions to grow and opt for platforms, techniques that have not been used before. With many primary and necessary changes coming in the educational system, it is also important for educators to accept the change not only in the system but also within the management and organisation. 

Tough and challenging times call for a change in the strategy implemented, management framework and also that of leadership. Adaptation is a primary element for the changes to be successfully implemented. New normal and rapidly changing education system certainly calls for a change in leadership - it requires adaptive leadership. 

In simple terms, adaptive leadership is a practical leadership framework and approach that helps individuals and organizations adapt and thrive in challenging environments. An effective adaptive leadership enables both, individually and collectively, to take on the gradual but meaningful process of change. 

The framework and approach towards effective adaptive leadership can be implemented in a 3 step process, namely - ‘Observation, Interpretation and Intervention’. A smart leader would know that during the adaptive phase it becomes crucial to diagnose, interpret, and innovate in order to create the capabilities that match the organisation’s aspirations.

The Observation stage of the adaptive leadership framework is the most primary and important phase. It becomes important to make some basic observations about the current work structure, policies and work style before planning for any changes into the system - internally or externally. Without understanding and comprehending the current situation it would become nearly impossible for the organisation to adapt to any changes. 

This stage of adaptive leadership involves collecting the present data, analyzing the problem and figuring out whether the problem requires a technical fix or a more modified and novel solution to deal with it. Adaptive solutions to the problem become more complicated and yet extremely important since it involves dealing with personnel. It becomes necessary for the leader to consider everybody's viewpoints and opinions and also to take the required steps in dealing with the issues taking the support of the management. Having a ‘bird’s eye view’ for a particular situation really helps the leader to correctly observe and analyse the situation. 

Next comes the Interpretation stage. Once the data is collected and analysed it becomes important to decipher the meaning of the data and information. A successful interpretation of a leader would be to get to know the ‘unsaid’ and ‘unexpressed’ in the organisation. It is important for the leader to observe the data and also to comprehend the underlying meaning. The interpretation stage really requires and also challenges the leader’s management and leadership skills, along with their skill to analyse a given situation in a deeper manner. 

The last stage is the intervention stage in which the leader should see to it that proper assessment is taken and monitored regularly along with the implementation of the newly planned policies and changes in the organisation. It also becomes important to realise and accept that there is always a chance of human error while implementing these changes. It then becomes essential to provide those who are responsible for certain tasks, with relevant training so as to enhance their capabilities and skillsets to carry out the adaptive changes. 

Often it is seen that while implementing new policies and changes in the working culture of the organisation, the current policies that seem to be working very well are often neglected. A leader should make sure that these policies and structures of the organisation are not left in the dirt. Rather it would be beneficial if new policies are to be based upon the current working ones. 

When dealing with such crucial changes there are a few things that a leader should bear in mind to make the process and transition more efficient and effective. 

  1. Leadership is about finding like-minded people and proper delegation of authority.
  2. Implementing massive changes in the organisation would often result in confusion and some displeasure among the personnel. To avoid this a leader has to be sure to implement minor changes systematically so that they would be approved by everyone and also be effective in the long run. 
  3. Patience is the virtue of a good leader. The changes and new policies implemented would require a period of time to actually show the results. Hence it is important for the leader to have patience and also to celebrate even the smallest positive outcomes. 
  4. As a leader, it is important to realise the fact that not everyone is going to be committed to the change. Many would be afraid to adapt to the change because they would be lacking certain professional skills required or even to invest the time and energy. As a leader, it becomes crucial to acknowledge this and convey to said people that their hard work is appreciated. It develops a mutual understanding and respect towards each other which in turn is beneficial for an efficient and effective transition. 
  5. New changes come with criticisms. A good leader would always welcome these criticisms and make them the basis of future observations and during the monitoring phase. Criticisms about a particular change give the leader insight and different perspective that is beneficial to the improvement of the organisation. 

In order to see that these adaptive changes and solutions are efficiently and effectively implemented a leader can create certain conditions. 

  1. It becomes important for a leader to establish a conflict management culture in the organisation so that the management and the workplace environment holds through these changes without any serious damages. 
  2. A good leader who believes in adaptive leadership should see to it that in the management of the organisation, every point of view is heard; a fair chance to improve and be heard is given to everyone irrespective of the hierarchical structure and an open-minded working environment is built where people welcome the idea of experimentation. 
  3. While implementing the new policies and changes within the organisation, the leader should control the momentum of the process and transition. 
  4. Working towards changes in the running system is never fun, people would often try to avoid work and a leader should be able to create a work avoidance management system. 
  5. Lastly, it is important for a leader to maintain high spirits and be encouraging towards the developments and results. The high spirit of the leader reflects the working style of the organisation and thus it becomes crucial for a leader to be pragmatic. 

Although adaptive leadership requires plenty of efforts, it provides substantial returns. Based on credible statistics, firms that are adaptive end up with immense gains both financially and operationally. They are able to weather the storms and rise to the top even during periods of volatility.

About the author: Siddharth Rajgarhia, Chief Learner-Director, Delhi Public School, Nashik, Varanasi & Lava Nagpur

 

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