There is no doubt that the business world is changing. Fast just keeps getting faster, and more and more companies are being disrupted seemingly by overnight, unexpected competitors.
This increasing outside pressure can leave employees feeling confused, uneasy and looking to their leader to guide them appropriately. This is why adaptive leadership is more important than ever; for organizations to survive volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), leaders must know when to adapt to a changing environment. Adaptive leaders are open to change and not only know when to respond to threats and opportunities appropriately, but also do it in a timely fashion before the organization feels any unfavourable setbacks.
According to Brent Gleeson “Adaptive leaders know how to get results in an ever-changing environment. They read the terrain, are well-prepared, and expect plans to change.” If adaptive leaders can expect plans to change it leaves employees feeling confident in their leader and calm when the organization changes course. When an organization is built for agility, change is expected and embedded in the culture of the company. It also creates an awareness for possible threats or opportunities emerging, and leaves less room for blind spots.
Along with outside pressures, many organizations are feeling the inside pressures of adapting leadership styles as more Millennials enter the workforce. On April 25, 2016 Millennials overtook Baby Boomers as the largest generation and now represent the largest segment of the workforce. This generation is far more demanding and favours a company’s flexibility in work/life balance, culture and leadership style over a big pay check. The authoritative leadership style that is typically associated alongside companies with a strict hierarchical structure does not bode well for this influential group. Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Report indicates that there is a real absence of loyalty amongst Millennials for their employer. In fact, the report indicates that during the next year, if given the choice, one in four Millennials would quit his or her current employer to join a new organization or to do something different. That figure increases to 44 percent when the time frame is expanded to two years. By the end of 2020, two of every three respondents hope to have moved on, while only 16 percent of Millennials see themselves with their current employers a decade from now.
With increasing outside and inside pressures leaders need to be adaptive to keep both their employees happy, and to stay afloat and survive in today’s unpredictable business climate. As Jon-Yon Yun, the CEO of Samsung once said ‘You must constantly change and adapt to a new environment’. This is now truer than ever. Adaptive leaders need to be good examples of how to adapt to react to change, and to inspire and empower their employees to confidently do the same.