Living Well as Adaptive Leaders

Living well as Adaptive Leaders necessitates changes in how we approach situations as well as how we think and act.

Adaptive leaders THINK differently.

  1. They have a scenario mindset. Adaptive Leaders who create plans that are set in concrete will not be able to change quickly enough to adapt to a constantly changing ministry landscape. Leaders need to imagine alternative scenarios based on people’s interests and energies move, what’s happening in society, and what other similar organizations are doing.
  2. They demonstrate a humble mindset. They recognize their limitations and don’t pretend to have all the answers. They seek out the shared wisdom of others and celebrate other people’s viewpoints and contributions. They see themselves as both a teacher and a student.
  3. Adaptive leaders are naturally curious. They are a sponge for new ideas and approaches. They listen deeply and observation what’s going on around them. They ask thoughtful and probing questions that surface issues others haven’t considered. They take notes and have a place to park information and ideas for future reference.

Adaptive leaders TALK differently.

  1. They talk about what they’ve been learning from recent results. They engage with their colleagues and team members in what the military calls “after action reviews,” where they learn what worked and what didn’t in light of their recent actions. This dialogue leads to new experiments and conversations about ways to move forward with greater impact.
  2. They ask better questions. They enjoy asking “what if” questions that call forth new approaches and possibilities. They use questions to frame conversations in ways that lead to more constructive conversation. They use questions to help people dialogue in ways that move people beyond their “in the box” thinking. They use questions to help people see situations from new angles of vision.
  3. They explore possibilities for exponential change. They engage in conversations that lead to exponential change rather than incremental improvements. They move people beyond entertaining tried and true approaches from the past toward ways to pilot new ideas and approaches.

Adaptive leaders ACT differently.

  1. They are willing to experiment. They have a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” mindset and always seem to be testing a few of their ideas and hunches. They view failure as learning opportunities and are willing to fail faster so that they can succeed sooner.
  2. They have a bias toward action. They dance between doing what matters, discovering what’s happening, discerning new possibilities, and designing new experiments. If they don’t know something, they find out.
  3. They execute quicker than others. They remove the lag times between experimenting, reflecting, deciding and designing next steps. Improvement and innovation becomes an ongoing process not hampered by monthly meetings, quarterly reviews and annual assessments. They find new ways to pick up the pace so that they’re moving forward, faster than most other organizations. Their capacity to innovate and implement quickly differentiates them from their competition.

Leading well in a constantly changing environment requires everyone to think like an owner or executive director. It requires adaptive leaders to become multilingual with various communication platforms so that they can connect with people, more often and more deeply. Leading well is a lifelong adventure, an affair of the heart, that leads to bringing out God’s best in ourselves, each other and the organizations we serve.

  • What does leading well mean to you?
  • In what ways do you need to start thinking differently?
  • In what ways do you need to start talking differently?
  • In what ways do yo need to starting acting differently?
  • Are you sufficiently humble and hungry to take the next step?

Jim LaDoux is Vibrant Faith’s Director of Coaching Services, Leading Well, and the Coaching Certification School. 


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