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Adaptive Leadership

Do you know how to bring out the very best in your people?

Adaptive Leadership

The key to successful leadership lies in adaptability.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs must be flexible and effortlessly move from one leadership style to another to meet the changing requirements of organizations and employees. A good leader knows how and when to change his or her style to suit every situation.

Five Basic Leadership Styles

Most leaders follow at least one (and, most likely, several) of these basic leadership styles:

Authoritative Leadership – Authoritative or autocratic leadership works best when a team needs a strong direction. This type of leadership identifies challenges that lie ahead and focuses the team on a common goal.

Coaching Leadership – Coaching leadership is most effective when employees are receptive to change and learning because the purpose of your coaching is to help them learn and grow.

Coercive Leadership – Coercive, or transactional leadership, is the most directive leadership style. This is the “Do what I tell you right now!” style of leadership. Use this style sparingly because it stifles creativity and enthusiasm.

Democratic Leadership – Democratic leadership allows team members to share their ideas and provide input into decisions. Everyone has a seat at the table, discussion flows freely, and the leader gathers and evaluates all available information to make the best possible decision.

Pacesetting Leadership – Pacesetting leadership is best described as leading by example. Pacesetting leaders generally set high expectations and demand quick results.

 How to Adapt your Leadership Style

The key to success in managing people is to recognize that different leadership styles exist. Here is a four-step process for how to change your leadership style and so that you better manage your staff and your business.


The first step is to identify the imperative to change. We need to understand the existing relationship dynamics, personal interests, and vested resources amongst stakeholders.  Adapting your leadership style requires you to calibrate the most effective way to deliver results. So take the time to let every situation unravel to understand the situational dynamics better.


The reason detection is so important is because it affords space to maneuver—not in the physical sense of trying to escape another seemingly wasteful meeting, but the mental space that allows you to adjust mid-course based on new information or perspectives.

To adapt in this sense is to have a flexible mindset, to be prepared to put aside the functional expertise, and instead improvise based on the intent of the situation.


Choosing the right leadership style depends on many factors. Here are a few questions to consider before choosing the best leadership style to employ:

  • What does “right” look like? Is my definition of winning the same as everybody else’s?
  • What objective am I trying to achieve? What objective are we trying to achieve? Why the discrepancy? (if applicable)?
  • What and who will be impacted the most? Is this impact in accordance with our intent?


Once you’ve detected the right leadership style to employ, adapted your mindset and behavior to that style. Adopting a new leadership style into your repertoire allows you to call upon that style and its associated skills at any time and under any circumstance.

The Bible

A great way to think of adaptable leadership is the consider how God leads.

God is an authoritative or autocratic leader when He delivers His commands and only intervenes when needed.  The Israelites were given His covenants and had many opportunities to obey.  Finally, God intervened and exiled them as punishment.

God is often a coercive leader.  Consider the story of Noah where God floods the earth in response to the corruption of all humankind, “wiping out every living thing from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:7), except for Noah and his family and a boat full of two of every species of creatures in existence.

Finally, God is often a form of a coach to His people.  God commands obedience from His people, similar to that of a father where He is an all-just Father figure.  When His commands are not followed, He responds with some form of punishment followed by a glimmer of hope or promise of redemption.

Knowing adaptable leadership skills will set you apart from other leaders, and will produce positive results with your team.