Adaptive Leadership: why change starts with you

“Instead of constantly adapting to change, why not change to be adaptive?”
Fred Emery, Psychologist (1925–1997)

I love this quote because this refers to the notion of leaders adapting their internal world, rather than trying to change the external world around them. One thing is for sure, the external world is constantly changing. So instead of trying to control it as we want it to be, couldn’t it be easier to adjust ourselves to best respond to external factors? Doesn’t a lack of agility seem more of a threat than not changing nowadays?

This article is about why Leaders need to consider working on their adaptability to access the best in themselves and bring out the best in others.



Our resistance to change

We are hard-wired to resist change. Our reptilian brain sees change as a threat and will bring up things to get in our way, and yet we live in a world that is constantly changing. We will resist change in a different way. Some of us will:

  • Blame others or situations to avoid change
  • Feel victimised by the change to validate the threat
  • Critise the impact of the change to justify not doing it
  • Impose beliefs on others so we don’t need to change ourselves
  • Amplify the risk of the change to turn it into a positive challenge
  • Withdraw all together to avoid taking action

All these are different negative perceptions of handling change. We are likely to resonate with some of these in different contexts when it best suits us. 

Different minds, different needs to adjust to

We all have our preferences in how we communicate and how we like to be motivated. Different people will be motivated by different things like:

  • Being recognised for our work
  • Doing something fun
  • Doing something which feels good
  • Being valued for our opinions
  • If we are top of the best at something
  • How we manage our time

As a Leaders, do you know what truly motivated you and your preferred communication style? How does this impact your team? How can you meet everyone’s needs all at once?

What time are you creating to understand individuals’ needs in your team? How can you identify when and how to adapt to them and when and how they should adapt to you?

A healthy mind fuels our capacity to adjust

The quality of our mental health is linked to our capacity to adjust to others or situations around us. Adapting to others takes energy, so if we are energised and feeling good this comes more easily to us, however, when we are under pressure or running out of steam, we can find ourselves being fixated in our own preferences which can sometimes clash with others’ and not result in the outcome we would like. This results in miscommunication or conflict.

Have you ever been in a conversation when you are both speaking English and yet you fail to understand each other?



To get out of this loop, one of you needs to seek to understand the other person’s perceptive and adapt to their communication style. The question is, who is responsible for this?

A need for co-responsibility for a productive adjustment

As Leaders, we can adjust how we communicate to make others more comfortable with change. 

I speak to Leaders who feel they are fully responsible for motivating their teams. Others think it’s about hiring self-starters. Like everything in life, isn’t it a bit of both?

By better understanding ourselves we can understand our needs and build enough confidence to express them when we collaborate with others. Sometimes we will need to adapt more to others as they are not in the capacity to do so, and other times it is the other way around, we may need to ask others to adapt to us to make things work.

It all starts with understanding ourselves as a Leader and as an individual contributor. I work with Leaders to better understand their personalities so they can better understand their needs. A bi-product of this is being able to recognise other’s needs and empowering them to take ownership for them.

We aren’t taught this at school or at work, and yet it is fundamental to how we look after ourselves, performance at our best, and how we interact with others successfully.



By learning to adapt to our own needs, we will have more energy to adapt to others. When we change inside, we change how we relate to our external world and how it relates to us. This internal adaptability can redefine our whole experience and how we influence others from the inside out.

If you are interested in finding your own formula of performance and wellbeing alignment for you or your teams feel free to get in touch for a discovery call.

As a Conscious Leadership coach, Lauren takes an internal approach to leadership development. She works with founders and leaders to access new insights and self-awareness by improving how they relate to their sense of Self, Others and their Organisation to drive business results and wellbeing.

Lauren is also a keynote speaker on the Success Paradox. The concept of success coming at a cost of high performers. It can be a cost to physical, emotional or mental health. She shares how you can reduce these risks to find a balance for high performance and wellbeing.



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