Adaptive Leadership Lessons For Transformational Growth An adaptive performance mindset embraces leadership that is agile, interactive and adjusts continually, regardless of any adversity

By Roshni Wadhwa

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The last one year has challenged leadership in more ways than one. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown leaders into a pool of uncertainty, flawed information, and the need to respond speedily: all while recognizing the multi-dimensional (health-related, economic, social, political, cultural) aspects of the crisis. This pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of leadership that can guide teams through a crisis with a balanced approach - focussing on employees as well as business needs. To operate successfully in this scenario, businesses and leaders need a mindset of being adaptive, which helps in developing a quicker framework in responding to unpredictability and grasping new opportunities.

An adaptive performance mindset embraces leadership that is agile, interactive and adjusts continually, regardless of any adversity. A business' ability to learn and respond has always been a matter of great concern and study. When WFH started many years ago it was seen as a benefit, but it is now considered an ability to ensure business continuity for employees, clients and customers.

What differentiates a leader in a crisis is the ability to sift through widespread ambiguity and filter the key information necessary to make a decision and take action. Bringing agility into the process and the ability to pivot quickly if needed is critical in a crisis, especially, as we all know, a crisis never comes with a manual.

Apart from forming an architecture of decision making, another important quality is to communicate to the larger team and build a larger sense of purpose and responsibility. When there is a sense of shared responsibility for a company's vision, the success of the business becomes everyone's business. It is also vital that leaders pause to assess, anticipate and course correct where necessary. But the most important trait to tie all this together is empathy.

A wave of transformation has swept across industries where companies are catching up with digitalization and technological disruption to stay competitive. The nature of this new threat has made us speed up our digitization efforts. HR and business teams are demonstrating great agility in adapting to virtual platforms of working which have turned out to be the "new normal.'

With every crisis comes an opportunity to learn something new and this one brought with it the acceptance for new ways of working. Agility also spells a need for regular upskilling and development, and virtual learning is going to be the standard offering going forward. It provides a great opportunity for employees to continue to upskill and learn new skills amidst the pandemic and uncertainty.

This is also a good time for business teams to reimagine the business situation post the crisis. HR leaders must review the new normal to re-engineer the workplace and workforce to drive cost efficiency.

Leaders with foresight are also already working with the collective intelligence of teams by working on "bounce back' plans. This demonstrates a business' larger intent and commitment while also helping build the morale of employees by keeping their eye on the future.

Agility in the organization is another key aspect to survive and be relevant in the market. Organizations should emphasize on leadership transformation by building a culture of collaboration and empowerment. Various initiatives can be taken into consideration to simplify the way we work like cutting down on unnecessary approval levels, introducing technology to drive efficiencies, collaboration platforms etc. This also gives the organisation an opportunity to evolve and become a preferred choice for potential employees.

Leaders play a significant role in driving a mission to establish a simple, collaborative and empowered work culture. An adaptive culture is required in creating platforms for communication, engagement and a sense of common purpose that binds the workforce. In addition to this, strong demonstration of fairness, objectivity, transparency, and keen interest to build human capital is equally important. Leaders must be willing to learn in the moment, allow for trial and error and let the best approach win. Communication, candour and compassion do more to accelerate transformation than people think.

Roshni Wadhwa

Director-HR, L’Oréal India

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