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RA.R.E. Leaders – Adaptability

Published by Marc King on


Dictionaries define adaptability as one’s capacity to change or be changed to fit varied circumstances. Note that adaptability can be active and passive at the same time, proportional to beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives we possess. Depending on mindset, our ability to adapt may be exercised or restricted based on our willingness to accept change. An attitude of embracing change is a form of active adaptation, while a lack of willingness to embrace change may result in externally-applied forces that cause passive adaptation. In either case, change is inevitable and adaptation will follow.

For example, in our youth, we were taught that dinosaurs went extinct for failing to adapt to global climate change. They were incapable of physically adapting to the climate; however, change in them occurred. They died to serve another purpose, converting their decaying bodies into the massive pools of oil we rely on today, namely fossil fuels. In a sense, dinosaurs were very adaptable to the changing needs of the world, which caused themselves to be adapted to a new purpose.

By comparison, we see a leading cause of failure among companies as their inability to adapt to changing market conditions. At a more individual level, we might have known a coworker, perhaps ourselves, who refused to adapt, unwilling to embrace change as it was occurring before one’s very eyes. The inadaptable company or employee simply cease their purpose as their environment changed. The employee will find another job while the company may not be as fortunate.

Many participants in R.A.R.E. Leader conversations believe adaptability is an obvious, even prerequisite trait to possess for long-term survival. Unlike resourcefulness, resilience, and engaging, adaptability is the easiest to exercise for the change-embracing person and just as easy to restrict for the change-resistant. Belief in the beneficial or detrimental consequences which arise from change directly affects one’s willingness to adapt, i.e. actively.

As R.A.R.E. Leaders we are innately driven to lead at times of change. This often involves gathering, developing, and directing teams that manage change. Hopefully, they will survive for the lifetime of the problem being solved or the opportunity being pursued. Yet the degree of the team’s ability to adapt, with companion traits of agility, flexibility, and pliability, determines the long-term viability of that team and its individuals beyond the initial goal. Change agency, even for the solo entrepreneur, involves teams, including one’s clients and vendors with whom they work.

Adaptability is considered by many as a “soft skill,” and therefore, a skill that can be developed. As leaders, honing skills often pays-off with stronger long-term relationships among those we lead and those we serve. If changes in one’s perspective are necessary, then our strategic approach would require seeing more context about the problem or opportunity demanding adaptation. In this case, the issue isn’t as much the belief or attitude in whether the change is efficacious as it is of seeing the ‘big picture’, so our efforts would be better spent on grinding ‘bigger lenses’ for ourselves. This grinding process to see more and more of a problem or opportunity is a continuous leaning forward into and understanding of changing dynamics. How wide are your lenses? How challenged is your belief that change, and therefore, adaptation is continuous? Do you consider yourself an agent of change or an object of change, and therefore, possessing active adaptability or passive adaptability? R.A.R.E. Leaders are the cause of their surroundings and not the effect.