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The Importance of Leaders Being Adaptable

Source| LinkedIn : By James Houran

Google “damage control and engineering” anytime you’re hungry for some fascinating reading. Structural engineers design sky-scrapers, bridges and other buildings to be physically flexible when facing strong environmental forces like wind or earthquakes. Wood and steel have more give than stucco, unreinforced concrete, or masonry, and they are favored materials for building in fault zones. These facts are contrary to what many people assume, namely, that the secret to building a stable and enduring structure must be to make it as rigidly strong as possible.

Likewise, the leaders we interviewed for our book, The Loneliness of Leadership, consistently spoke about the importance of adaptability and flexibility.  The 20|20 Skills™ assessment that we used to psychometrically profile the leaders revealed higher levels of Sense of Humor and Creativity among the generalist traits and skills they exhibited. Humor correlates to intelligence (IQ), and higher IQ usually means enhanced ability to maintain a measured outlook, whereas Creativity equates to one’s capability of seeing the big-picture and seeing novel connections or patterns. Both of these characteristics are crucial to effectively managing the dynamic markets and working conditions within the hospitality industry. Here, business decisions typically must be made without all the desired information and without having clear or relevant precedents to guide one’s actions. This is why intuition can be a powerful and useful tool; it’s the mind’s way of quickly and unconsciously tying together vast amounts of past and present information in an attempt to apply available learnings in an educated way to new or novel situations.

Yet intuition, creativity, and humor aren’t always enough to ensure adaptability and flexibility in business and leadership contexts. A critical, but often understated aspect to leadership and adaptability, is humility. This goes against another common and public misconception, that is, that CEOs, leaders, executives or entrepreneurs are egomaniacs craving the center of attention and surrounded by teams of “yes” men and women. Great business leaders can certainly be charismatic, even flamboyant or theatrical (ala Jack Welch, Donald Trump or Steve Wynn), but under a public persona is often a humble mindset. Humility is also not about being quiet or understated in one’s mannerisms; those we studied for the book made it clear that it’s about a willingness to be vulnerable to others’ talents and to think in shades of grey versus a rigid “black-and-white” mentality. Social scientists refer to such attitudes as tolerance of ambiguity or openness to experience or one of the newer coined concepts of “intellectual humility” – the ability to tendency to view’s one’s opinions, beliefs, or positions as subject to further consideration.

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