Jul 5

BCG´s Adaptive Leadership

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

„How can leaders chart a course through a turbulent environment when they cannot predict the outcomes of their choices?“- Answer to this question find three protagonists of the Boston Consulting Group´s office in New York – Roselinde Torres, Martin Reeves and Claire Love – condensing it to the notion of Adaptive Leadership.

The model of Adaptive Leadership shows four major dimensions:

1. To navigate the business context, in which actors interact

2. To lead with empathy

3. To learn through self-correction

4. To create win-win-solutions

Nothing new indeed, experienced readers and leaders would say, as Thomas Gordon, Richard Boyaztis, Daniel Goleman, Carl Rogers, Peter Senge, and others started to preach these key findings since the 70ties of the last century.

BCG comes up with these already well-known (may be even after decades still not sufficiently applied) key factors absolutely critical for successful leadership because of a dramatically changed business environment.

“BCG comes up with these already well-known (may be after decades still not sufficiently applied) key factors absolutely critical for successful leadership because of a dramatically changed business environment.”

And it is this social and economical environment, which heavily reinforces the urgency to take a chance on personal change as, I quote, “hierarchical, command-and-control approaches do not work anymore. They impede information flows inside companies, hampering the fluid and collaborative nature of work today.” This does not mean to stop planning, structuring, budgeting, follow up and follow though. But it means to deal with it in a different way.

Traditional strategic planning and long-range forecasting nowadays often become obsolete because economical change comes fast and unpredicted. Digital communication and social media redefine business behavior and speed up the run for brand new information. Public opinion now demands an ethical and social economy, which comes along with a lack of trust in traditional business and leaders. Demographic change brings up a new, demanding generation Y.

These shifts, BCG claims, require leaders who are able to create business networks achieving business goals dynamically and autonomously and with that leaders who flexibly master delegation and communication.

In concrete, BCG suggests summarized the following measures:

1. Navigate

Manage the context in which actors interact, give room for experimentation and for a genuine adaptation to change in general. Rigid rules creating top down instructions do not longer foster efficiency and productivity. The magic word is alignment of responsible and self-growing players in your team. That implies – known from the very simple principles of group dynamics – that leadership or precisely: the very role of decision making may change according to the required expertise for a decision. And it requires personhood and the attitude of eldership within a functional leader in order to direct the whole diverse system of perspectives and options.

2. Empathize

With a systemic approach to perception and thus to reality adaptive leaders develop the ability to understand and to feel all possible viewpoints and perspectives in the system directed by them. Integrating and aligning all stakeholders is key to success. First of all, it means leading with the heart and at the same time by meaning and cause. Once, the cause and the purpose are clear, empower people to grow. It means, that you as adaptive leader grant more responsibility once you trust the achievements of your people. By doing so, you foster ownership and engagement.

3. Learn self-directed

Self-directed learning is a key issue for all leaders. Richard Boyaztis and Peter Senge wrote about what this means for individuals and organizations. People and companies learn by failure, as this is the way to successful adaptation. Creativity and innovation need experimentation! Adaptive leaders build platforms for that and embrace failure as opportunity to reflect on learning to succeed. Those who learn fast first learned to listen. To listen to markets, to customers, to employees in order to adapt strategy.

4. Cooperate

Mobilize your company´s extended ecosystem, trusting the capability of all stakeholders involved to balance activities by means of technology in the strategic channel. This approach requires less formal authority and more “soft power” including corporate social responsibility as social advantage.

Even going through some the details here above and some concrete suggestions how to adapt one´s own leadership style to the model of Adaptive Leadership, one does not discover unknown suggestions.

The new thing is the external situation, which forces strengthening one´s own leadership for the business environment of today and tomorrow. That is also why BCG put the topic Adaptive Leadership under the umbrella of strategic consulting. To act like an adaptive leader has strategic impact.

Do you currently really navigate? Empathize? Learn self-directed and cooperate, with all necessary implications?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 at 02:00 and is filed under Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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