I’ve been writing about leadership these last few posts because that’s an area of focus for me. So this time, I will write about leadership and the need to be adaptable.
It’s one of the six principles Christopher I. Maxwell writes about in his book, “Lead Like a Guide: How World-Class Mountain Guides Inspire Us to Be Better Leaders“.
It’s also one that I can struggle with the most.
Learning to step back
A classic example is this blog post. I knew it was due, and I knew I was behind schedule in getting it to ship because of unexpected work demands. Yet, instead of carving out time to write, all I could think about was maintaining control of everything else on my to-do list and not dropping the ball at the office.
Yet as Maxwell says, the best leaders accept the need to be adaptable.
There are times on the mountain when a guide would have to say, ‘Do this. And if you don’t do what I tell you, you’re going to have a problem.’ But if you’re like that all the time, it’s not going to work. So, guides have learned to be flexible and use the right style at the right time.
And I think that’s where I am right now. I realize that part of being adaptable is releasing control but, at the same time, finding a way to always be aware of what’s going on.
In the business world, this can be hard, but when you’ve laid a foundation of trust and built a great team, you can know that people are using their skills to perform at their highest effort. If a question comes up or something takes a sharp turn in a direction you didn’t expect, you don’t have to rush in to control it all.
You can act as a guide and be there to support your team.
That means you set the direction and the pace, but you also make adjustments when they’re needed. For example, using encouragement and offering friendship can help people feel safe enough to try something new or take a step forward and apply new skills. Trust will also help when the team needs to shift and execute your decisions without questioning you.
As long as you’re always there for advice or to lend a helping hand. Adapting in this way can also result in empowering others.
I had to trust that I would get it done for me and this blog post, even if that meant I had to adjust the schedule I had set. So, not worrying about perfection or anything else, I adapted my regular routine and let my thoughts fall onto the paper. Once I deviated from my usual practice, I was surprised to see how easy I could write this post.
That can also work for businesses.
In a fast-paced business environment, you have to be flexible and adapt to new situations. Because things happen, and you need to always be on top of the situation.
It all comes down to leadership and how you’re viewing yourself as a leader, or guide if you will. Set the pace and direction, and then mentor people along the way. Be a guiding friend instead of a top-down manager, but never leave the hard decisions to someone else. Retake control, and lead through hazardous paths when needed before letting go a bit again when it’s safer.
I think it’s key to lead through a crisis like this. As a leader, you have to dare to lead, even if times are uncertain. The worst thing you can do is do nothing or hide between something else; waiting for the crisis to pass. what I have experienced is not uncommon. The organizations will have a hard time regaining trust and having everyone striving towards the same overall goal. But this will be another post. Keep an eye open for “Backwater“, coming in a little while, if you want to read more about this.
Learning to adapt
Personally, it’s a lot about finding energy intake and trusting to let go more and more. It’s so easy to get caught up in controlling every stream of information going on, especially if the business you’re in is struggling to function. Stepping away to gain a better view from the top, a fresh perspective on everything that’s going on can be one way to help you embrace adaptability.
I’m still learning to let things fall to the side if they’re not necessary at the moment, but I think I’m getting better at it. For example, I always try to be transparent in what I do and include people in our decisions. I’ve found that when I do this, it creates a sense of involvement and helps the team see the direction we’re headed in. This gives a sense of belonging, and it also helps to increase trust.
As we discussed earlier, the fast-paced environment is not always about cooperating, and right now, I tend to lead more as a manager than mentor people as a guide. It’s not what I like, and it’s draining like crazy, but fundamentally it’s about protecting the people you’re leading when the times are rough. It’s also about letting go when you have to and adapting to things that might be outside your natural comfort zone or leadership style.
But, looking at leadership as an art with many facets. Learning how to use each of them, I find the benefits for my teams and business. Trying to not fall into the same rut is a challenge, but friendship, mentorship, and guidance is the way forward.
By applying the type of leadership needed when having “read-the-room“, you can know what’s going on and what the situation demands. In combination with having trust and a clear view for the top, that are important ways to make sure you’re delivering what your team needs precisely when they need it.
Guiding people in a fast-paced business environment is about having the whole teamwork against a common goal. It’s about including everyone. To mentor people along the way, but always be there to lead when situations and risks demand it. To do this, you have to be flexible and willing to adapt to different styles of leadership.
In the next post in this leadership series, I will write about your leadership qualities when going through a change. And by being aware of people and guiding them, how you can still create a business where people feel safe and are inspired to deliver their best efforts — even in the middle of change.
[This post was originally posted on Medium, April 26, 2017]