What do adaptable leaders focus on?

Recently while speaking to an executive from an insurance company, we discussed the need to create more adaptability among their executive team. We started talking about the patterns we see across all of our clients and how the most adaptable leaders focus on three distinct areas. These areas can be summarized as where they’re going, how they get there, and why they’re doing it.

From the perspective of “where,” an adaptable leader doesn’t focus on a specific endpoint, like a laser beam. The days in which we could do five year strategic plans and predict where we’ll end up at the end of those five years are no more. Yet you can’t go to the other extreme and have a broad, floodlight-like approach, trusting you can just go willy-nilly wherever you need to go. The ideal approach is more like a spotlight, a general direction in which things need to go. With the flexibility you get from not taking a laser approach, you can change that direction based off of what you learn from the “how” aspect.

In terms of adaptability, the “how” is really a combination between curiosity and action. Curiosity (and, in turn, empathy) allows you to understand what the users, customers, and market may need. It also allows you to wonder what might happen if certain scenarios came to pass. The action refers to iteratively acting on your curiosity so you can gather evidence to inform further curiosity and further action. This marriage between curiosity and action is something embraced by the most adaptable leaders.

Finally, everything an adaptable leader does must be built upon a strong foundation of why they’re actually doing what they’re doing. And this why should be a combination of conviction and courage. The conviction of why you’re doing something; not only why you’re trying to lead and grow as an organization, but why you as a leader are personally connected to your efforts. When you truly understand this you can begin to tackle the other side of this: the courage.

Think about what’s holding you back from taking the steps you truly need to take to be able to perform the “how” and understand the “where”. Many times the fears that hold us back are ultimately unfounded; if you can test some of those fears through curiosity and action, you can continue to embolden that courage. Eventually, this allows you to understand how you can guide the organization or department to an even better place.