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What is adaptive leadership? This concept was created and introduced by Marty Linsky and Ronald Heifetz. It can be defined as actively mobilizing a group of people so they can collectively handle obstacles that they face while coming out victorious when it’s all said and done.

Leadership and the ideas surrounding it are changing. For many years, successful leaders were seen as those individuals who enforced their will on others, acting alone at the top of things. However, leadership is now seen by many as more of a collaborative effort, and the idea of adaptive leadership embraces this.


Adaptive leadership has four primary pillars to it:

  1. Emotional Intelligence: This is the capacity to recognize feelings in yourself as well as others. This awareness lets adaptive leaders engender trust with others so they can create high-caliber relationship.
  2. Establishment Justice: A culture of honesty has to be instilled. Adaptive leaders will introduce changes in that direction so that others embrace them. Everyone’s views and values must be honored and respected along the way.
  3. Development: Learning new things is a major component to adaptive leadership. When things aren’t working, new ways of doing things must be tried. Growth doesn’t happen without this.
  4. Character: Creativity and transparency are two hallmarks of good character in adaptive leadership. Such leaders know that they won’t always be right, but they know they can always earn respect.


Another area where adaptive leadership has four tenets is when responding to crisis, where the “4 A’s” come into play:

  1. Anticipation: This means identifying trends, options, and needs for the future.
  2. Articulation: Specific needs have to be spelled out and communicated in order to create group understanding and build support for potential action.
  3. Adaptation: Constant learning is crucial to keeping up with the times, and response adjustments are only possible with new techniques.
  4. Accountability: Any decision-making process needs to have transparency while also being open to feedback and even challenges.


Adaptive leadership is far from the only style of leadership available to those looking for coaching philosophies, but it’s a modern idea and articulated well. Many organizations have already embraced it to great success.