Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What the Chameleon Teaches Us about Leadership

Leaders today face a myriad of issues on a minute-by-minute basis.  Each of these situations calls for the same person to react completely differently to each in order to come to a reasonable solution and ultimately resolution of the problem.  As such unless a Leader is willing to adapt and re-organize, their efforts will be futile and they will ultimately fail.

Adaptive Leadership is the name given to the style of leadership that adjusts as needed to meet the challenge at hand.  It is an evolutionary process undertaken to ensure the success of an organization.  In order to succeed a Leader needs to pattern their leadership style to become like a chameleon. 

Like chameleons, Leaders need to be able to focus on two items simultaneously and independently.  This allows Leaders to be aware of situations happening in several locations at the same time, which allows them to be proactive in dismantling potential conflicts and other unwanted situations.  When Leaders are able to lead proactively rather than re-actively, organizations are able to function at full potential.

When a chameleon eats, their tongue, which is their primary method used to secure food for survival, can exceed the length of the chameleon’s body by double and deploy at speeds in excess of 41 G’s.  When you think about it that is tremendously fast.  Leaders have to act fast to ensure the survival of the organization.  They cannot mope around expecting things to work themselves out or waiting for “inspiration”.  They have to be immediate in their actions and confident in the outcome.

Most species of chameleons can change color and adapt to their surroundings.  Leaders need to be able to adapt their style and approach to the situation and individual or group that they are dealing with.  This is most difficult with larger organizations where the Leader has to interact with large numbers, but just because something is difficult, that does not make it impossible.  Nevertheless, good Leaders are able to quickly analyze the individual need of their subordinates, adapt to the situation, and employ a style of leadership that best meets the needs of the individual with whom they are interacting.  Those Leaders who refuse to adapt to the situation are often stuck in a rut and will find themselves consistently moving towards a less practical style of leadership when dealing with individuals.  You cannot effectively use a one-size fits all mentality when you are dealing with individuals that come from all types of backgrounds and personal situations.

Real Leaders are those Leaders who, despite of the challenges and difficulties that they face can adapt their approach to the circumstance that surrounds them and move forward with an effective style that meets the needs of their subordinates.  This is true in the work place, on a team, or in the home. 

There are countless books and seminars available to teach Leaders how to be more effective Adaptive Leaders—these books have been written by very smart people who have dedicated their lives to developing Leaders that are effective and successful. Nevertheless, you can read every book ever written and attend every seminar and convention on leadership available, and never be an effective leader unless you put into practice what you learn.  Stop to ask yourself some important questions about your personal leadership style.  Start with these two and make a list that focuses on yourself rather than on how you perceive how others perceive you.

Does my approach to leadership help my team to succeed?
As you approach this question, you have to be willing to evaluate yourself and listen to constructive feedback from your team members.  They know whether you help them, and they will tell you— and tell you what you need to hear. 

Do I care about the members of my team enough to figure out what they need from me?
If you do not care about the members of your team to determine what they need from you as a Leader, then maybe you should reevaluate your style to include the needs of your members in order to ensure the success of the organization.

These two questions will help you as you pivot towards a more adaptive style of leadership.  As you employ more personal leadership inventories on a regular basis, you will begin to see your effectiveness increase and the success of your organization as a whole.

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