Authentic Leadership Insights

Flourishing in a World that is Fast, Furious and in Flux

Creating an Adaptive and Developmental Culture

By Bill Shirley, BT, MCC

“It is not the strongest or the most
intelligent who survive; it is the most adaptable”
—– The Darwinian Imperative.

Closing the Adaptability Gap is the Universal Leadership Challenge

The business universe is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (“VUCA”).  Our role in this chaotic, environmental ecosystem is to support leaders in closing their Adaptability Gap – the gap between their organization’s performance and the adaptive performance required to flourish.

“The speed of response to an emerging adaptability
gap is the new metric for competitive success”
— John Chambers (CEO of Cisco Systems Inc., Retired)

The articles in this section address the Adaptability Gap and the many other leadership challenges contributing to a leader’s stress, chaos and sleepless nights.

We offer this growing collection of articles – Authentic Leadership Insights – to share our experiences as leaders, mentors and coaches in both the for-profit and nonprofit domains.  Our wish is that you discover these insights to be both interesting and useful in your journey to becoming the most authentic – and effective — leader you can be.

This material is intended for all the learning-leaders in organization. This is open source material; that is, you may use it in any ethical manner that advances the development of authentic leaders within your organization.

A word of caution: While these are “battle tested”, effective concepts, you are to test every concept before embracing it.  If you use it, you own it just as if you created it yourself.

Leadership Development through Coaching and Mentoring

For over twenty years, we have specialized in leadership development.  Our strength is in assisting leaders create the teams that handle the challenges of the VUCA ecosystem with adaptability, while eliminating chaos, stress and disengagement.

It is our conviction that closing the Adaptability Gap can only be done collaboratively with engaged employees working in innovative teams creating an adaptive culture.  We focus on creating the relationships that support the desired culture.  (We refer to these as “HOT” Relationships; grounded in Honesty, Openness and Trust.)  This is very different from focusing on strategy.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

An adaptive culture, one that closes an adaptability gap as rapidly as it emerges, has a Kaizen Climate.  In a Kaizen Climate, individuals can be vulnerable and risk looking foolish as they search for new ways to solve intractable problems.

An organizational ecosystem that is safe, clear and aligned promotes a culture that is responsible, cooperative and focused on exceeding the client’s expectations.  Such an ecosystem contains the space for cross-fertilization of ideas and collaboration among colleagues across companies, cultures and countries.

Relationships are not things; we don’t “have” relationships.  We are “in” relationship with everyone we encounter.  In every encounter, we are at choice as to whether we are creating Resonance or Dissonance.  Authentic leaders choose resonance.

Authentic leaders also live a low stress, fulfilling life adventure of their own design.  They ensure their competitive advantage by creating an organizational ecosystem where all employees live a low stress, fulfilling life adventure of their own design.  Innovation reigns!  Adaptive challenges are overcome!

The essence of leadership is the ability of leaders to gain buy-in to their values, purpose, vision and priorities.  Without buy-in, a leader has no other option but to use coercion, which leads to disengagement, low morale and low adaptability.  Many of the articles speak to this subject.

A Pause for Reflection

One of my early mentors would often tell me to slow up; take time to reflect on the possible flaws and unintended consequences of my plans.  He would often remind me:

“When you are up to your hips in alligators,
it is easy to forget that your task is to drain the swamp.”

The research into mindfulness proves that taking time for quiet reflection improves leadership performance.  Often the most valuable service we provide today’s overburdened leaders is a safe space where they can safely explore their blind spots, biases and possible misinterpretations of the data.  It is increasingly difficult to discriminate between what is sound and what is noise.