Adaptive Leadership: The Leader’s Advantage
by Bill McCollum and Kevin Shea
The National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering statistics survey for fiscal years 2015–2017 estimates obligations for federally funded research and development programs and initiatives will exceed $12 billion in 2017. While this amount appears staggering, few in research and development question the efficacy of the programs to remain technologically competitive in an increasingly complex world. However, new programs, systems, and technologies are not the only variables necessary to address the complexities facing today’s leaders. The most critical variable for maximizing the effectiveness of these investments lies in leaders’ ability to think and lead adaptively. This article frames contemporary thought of the term “adaptive leadership,” addresses ways of framing and understanding complexity, suggests challenges leaders and members face when confronted with adaptive challenges, and recommends leader behaviors and actions necessary for effectively leading organizations in adaptive environments. However, before proceeding one must ensure an understanding of the term “adaptive” in the context of adaptive leadership.
Peter Northouse addresses adaptive leadership by stating, “…adaptive leadership is about how leaders encourage people to adapt – to face and deal with problems, challenges and changes… focuses on the adaptations required of people in response to changing environments.” Northouse draws heavily on the work of Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, who describe adaptive leadership as “…an iterative activity, an ongoing engagement between you and groups of people…”
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| About the Authors:
Dr. Bill McCollum is an Associate Professor of Leadership at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. McCollum holds degrees from the University of Sarasota, Boston University, Arkansas State University, U.S. Air Force Air War College, and U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Academic honors include the General Fox Conner Chair of Leadership Studies and the 2008 CGSC Civilian Instructor of the Year.
Dr. Kevin P. Shea is an Associate Professor of Leadership and a Team Leader at the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College. He graduated from Stonehill College, has a masters from Central Michigan University, and a doctorate in education from Kansas State University. Shea has twice been named an instructor of the year, and was recently named a Professor Emeritus – the first instructor in the Department of Command and Leadership to be honored with that title.