Never has Australia needed the mindset and skills of adaptive leadership in its organisational cultures than it does right now. The Royal Commission has shone a spotlight on individual responsibility in creating cultures of trust. We have watched as old leadership models of power and entitlement have revealed a toxic sub-culture that exists within our major institutions.
It is easy to turn away from the examples and rhetoric of the banks but all cultures benefit from holding the mirror up to what is going on at home.
Complexity is to hold valid competing commitments. Adaptive organisations build cultures that embrace contradictions, and work productively as opposed to working against one another. Complex issues by definition are not easy to solve and require the workforce to be mobilised to share in the responsibility
WHAT is an adaptive organisation?
Firstly, an adaptive organisation faces contradictory, complex issues and builds both a cultural mindset and the technical capability to deal with them.
It manages the disruption of competing commitments.
What are the big competing commitments facing organisations today?
- commitment to customer/client (product and experience) AND to shareholder/stakeholder (investment value)
- commitment to innovation AND to systems set up to mitigate risk
- commitment to the outcome AND to the process
- commitment to strategic initiatives AND to business as usual
- commitment to new technologies AND to maintaining stability for stakeholders
The AND in those statements represent the contradictions of two or more conflicting values that must co-exist and not compete in order for organisations to flourish. Organisations use the rhetoric of innovation, but have neither the operations or culture set up for people to fail, or to take risks. There is often a strong legal department whose role is to mitigate risk on behalf of the organisation.
Secondly, an adaptive organisation doesn’t hold up the leader as the saviour, creating dependence and encouraging a culture of blame. When you hear the words “someone needs to show leadership around here” you know it is not an adaptive culture. That phrase reveals an expectation that someone will have all the answers. We are interested in creating the skills that distribute leadership and enable the wisdom that exists throughout the organisation to be heard and to contribute. This is not to diminish the authority of the people at the top but to use that authority to create the conditions to mobilise the efforts of all in solving complex issues.
Thirdly, an Adaptive workforce is mobilised to raise issues and engage in conflict, and is trained to do that with neutrality and compassion. The culture sits comfortably with ambiguity.
Develop your Adaptive Leadership skills. Applications are now open for the Australian Adaptive Leadership Program commencing in May 2019. Applications Close March 31. Click through for more information.