Six Key Behaviors of Adaptive Leadership

This model developed by Ronald Heifetz and his colleagues, which is designed to help leaders manage complex challenges that require both organizational and personal adaptation. These behaviors are essential for leaders who aim to guide their teams through difficult changes effectively.

1. Get on the Balcony: This metaphorical behavior encourages leaders to step back from immediate problems to gain a broader perspective. It involves observing the situation from a distance to understand the dynamics at play fully.

2. Identify the Adaptive Challenge: Leaders must differentiate between technical challenges, which can be solved with existing knowledge and procedures, and adaptive challenges, which require new learning and changes in attitudes, values, or behaviors.

3. Regulate Distress: Adaptive changes often induce stress. Leaders need to create a safe environment for addressing tough issues (a holding environment) while ensuring that the stress levels remain productive. This involves balancing the need for change with the capacity of individuals to manage the stress that change induces.

4. Maintain Disciplined Attention: Leaders must help their team focus on the critical, often uncomfortable work of change, ensuring that avoidance behaviors are minimized and that the team confronts the real issues at hand.

5. Give the Work Back to the People: Rather than dictating solutions, leaders should empower their teams to take ownership of problems and their solutions. This encourages learning, growth, and development within the team.

6. Protect Leadership Voices From Below: Leaders should be open to hearing and valuing the contributions of all team members, especially those who might be marginalized or hold minority viewpoints. This ensures a diversity of perspectives is considered and that all members feel valued and engaged.

Source — Leadership: Theory and Practice by Peter G. Northouse