[November 23, 2013] To paraphrase Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
Although written for a theory to explain how species survive, the idea has applicability to success in human organizations. Adaptability is at the core of his theory. Darwin also wrote that a species must adapt but also adapt quickly if it is to survive as a species.
An example of wartime adaptability is from the beginning of the war on terror in Afghanistan. Our Special Forces, CIA operatives, and airpower combined to decimate Taliban formations. Taliban convention forces were on the receiving end of a campaign that literally destroyed their main ability to operate in the country.
A core competency of the most successful leaders is having an “immense adaptability” in the workplace. With competition, evolving markets, changing priorities, transitioning organizations, and a complex array of shifting requirements, only the most adaptable will succeed. Senior leaders must be personally adaptable but they must also promote team and organizational adaptability.
Adaptability is even more important the higher in an organization the senior leader is in the hierarchy. There is a danger here for senior leaders since the higher we are, the more influence and control we can exert on the organization, rather than using our ability to adapt.
A high-level, immensely adaptable senior and experienced leader is rare and is extraordinarily valuable. Great senior leaders are motivated, inspired, and capable of action despite obstacles, ambiguity, and adversity.
There is a large amount of information on adaptability and its connection to leadership – much of it on the web. It is recommended that some time be devoted to read some of the more popular. Although much of it is duplicative, and some perhaps misleading, there is plenty of nuggets of truth and wisdom there.