Adaptive Leadership | Characteristics, Pros, and Cons

A leadership style which was researched by Marty Linsky and Ron Heifetz is a framework of practical leadership that enhances people and company to become accustomed to change in the environment. And further, respond to the dilemmas effectively. It helps them to deal with considerable changes at an uncertain time.

Every company has ongoing problems. The leaders identify the systematic changes and deal with them. This adaptive leadership allows them to examine it accurately and then involves the entire company to deal with it. One can opt for this leadership when they find no easy solution.

Adaptive leaders formulate the strategies and practices to aid organizations and employees. They develop the capabilities which are required to compete in this challenging environment.

This adaptive leadership can be learned through specific training. For an adaptive leader, anyone from the organization can go ahead and take charge.

Principles of Adaptive Leadership



Precisely, there are altogether four main principles of adaptive leadership.

These are beneficial for an organization or a leader who wants to opt for this leadership. A leader should follow these tenets to be a better adaptive leader.

If you are willing to be an adaptive leader, it is right for you to peep into these principles. And make sure you bear these basic principles to hold the charge of a leader-

1. Development of the organization and employees

When any technique doesn’t work well in solving any problem, then this leader goes for a new method. He/She discovers new strategies to make it work. This leadership includes understanding unique things. Thereby making the employees and organizations learn new things frequently.

2. Sentimental Intelligence

It is a conscience that comprehends the emotions of oneself and that of the others. This intelligence can help you build up the trust with other employees and also seek good relations with each other.

3. Creativity and character matters

Leaders of adaptive leadership should possess good moral behavior and character. It will keep them attached to the employees and nurture their relationship. It can happen that the leader might not be right, always, but if he/she bears a good character, it won’t harm their connection.

4. Unbiased justice and honesty

The leader should be impartial while judging and helping. He/She should make other members feel valued. The leader should ask the members for opinion and their views which will undoubtedly make them feel respected.


One should also know the essential traits that are required to be an adaptive leader. They are:

  1. Encouraging and appreciating the employees so that they can improve.
  2. These leaders are assertive, and they anticipate alternatives when they need to be tackled.
  3. The leaders are always willing to take risks.
  4. The leaders are well aware of what is required to their stakeholders.
  5. The leaders are innovative and creative. Also, they encourage employees to be creative and think of new ideas.
  6. They can deliver alternatives whenever required.
  7. They accept and admit their faults. They also work on solutions to overcome the problems which were created by their failure.
  8. They prosper in any organization. As they have this character of adjusting, they do well at any place.
  9. They perpetually work for the benefit of the organization. Be it any change in culture, transforming the structure, or even adopting any new technology.
  10. They respect others’ opinions and acknowledge their work.


Challenges in Implementing Adaptive Leadership

Heifetz explained this leadership style is about challenges. This model is focussed on experimenting, making numerous adjustments, discovering new knowledge in the entire company. To managing and sustaining changes, the modification of policies is made. Shifting the values of individuals and beliefs, however, is difficult here.

Here, change is a bit disloyal to the past. You can only implement a new strategy when you can prove that the usual marketing technique isn’t effective now. New methods aren’t appreciated always.

The next challenge which this leadership faces is that it sets the platform for various forms of opposition. It can be from anyone. Be it your employees, and other stakeholders, or any client. They will try to hinder the new policies. And if they do so, remember that they aren’t willing to implement the new policy in this work.

Also, the biggest challenge which is brought up by adaptive leadership is not paying attention to other’s opinions. Since this leadership is more about teamwork and not power, in theory, it might be possible that an adaptive leader would listen to their workers and adapt their opinion if beneficial.

Meanwhile, in reality, they don’t even pay much attention to what others think. And these leaders need to understand that abandoning anyone’s suggestion won’t be better. It is better to mean that the leader is better informed about what workers are trying to present.


Advantages of Adaptive Leadership

Since we all know that this skill isn’t present in everyone, one has to bear specific characteristics to hold this position. So whoever holds this position can understand that these are several benefits of being an adaptive leader.

1. Being visionary and innovative is a forever need in this leadership

In several leaderships, change is prohibited. Also, you aren’t allowed to take the risk of thinking outside the box. Meanwhile, this leadership appreciates ingenious solutions.

Whenever there is a task or a problem that occurs, and the members can’t get an answer, the leader asks them to be creative. Creative thinking is forever appreciated in this environment. It helps them to think id new ways to complete things. It also develops their skills.

2. The leaders here, prioritize diversity

Since we all know, variety is one factor that makes an environment creative. Be it any country or a workplace. Any place which has variety can always learn new things every day.

New cultures, languages, backgrounds are observed every day. Similarly, here, the leader prefers to listen and focus on various voices.

An unbiased leader is best for any organization. When people come from different levels of thinking, they can give more relevant and innovative ideas. It can all together form a great idea.

3. Changes are always expected in this leadership

We are well aware that several leadership styles don’t know the technique of tackling with changes. Here, a different approach is chosen.

Adaptive leaders are farsighted, and they are well aware of the changes which are about to happen. They let others know and make them prepared also. A plan is implemented to counteract the replacement or issue which can become problematic.

This leader always has a plan-B to fight these dilemmas and save the organization from any changes.

4. It isn’t restricted to any expert; anyone can practice this leadership

We have already learned the characteristics and qualities of an adaptive leader. And we know that anyone can practice this style, as it doesn’t require any area of experience.

All you need are certain qualities. The priority is to bear a good moral character. Also, Creativity matters. Therefore, anyone who is ready to take the risk of Creativity and solution can hold this style.

Also, the leader must be able to execute the modifications they have done while observing the problem, which will direct to a solution.

5. It enables a different style of leadership

Various leadership styles are present, and they focus on a consistent and specific method of leadership. They do not allow any different approach to tackling the dilemma. Here, on the other hand, people are solving similar projects, but each of them has a unique style.

As we know, practicing one thing cannot always work. Therefore, it is better to look for various ways to compete with the problem.

It also maximizes the chance of a good result. This leadership includes the opinions of each employee which helps the organization to come to a better conclusion.


Not merely advantages are vital. One should also know what the cons of any leadership are. It can let them decide better. Anyone who is confused about what led to choosing can go through its pros and cons and conclude that what is their requirement.

1. This leadership style isn’t specific

Sometimes experience in one particular area is a requirement. This leadership lacks specificity; this becomes one significant demerit of leadership.

Leadership styles should be diverse, which is good, but at the same time, specificity is necessary, as conceptual clarity can’t be observed. Too many views and opinions can make an organization disturbed, as diversity can be harmful at times.

2. Here, the leaders seldom break the principles

In this leadership, the leader or a worker isn’t restricted to think in a single direction. Making decisions isn’t wrong, but specific rules should be kept in mind. As the results required should be consistent so it is necessary to look in a particular space.

Sometimes Creativity can harm the results. As this leader allows us to think differently, it can also make a leader not a follower of rules. When there is a dire need for a solution, sometimes the leader even breaks the rules.

When there is a requirement if an urgent decision, then he might waste his time thinking of any creative idea.

3. Sometimes workers or employees might avoid their work

This leadership, undoubtedly, runs an uncertain environment. At times, discipline is a necessity, but this leadership is too lenient. The employees sometimes don’t take seriously, although they are valued.

They might procrastinate and want their work to be done later. None but the organization itself is to be armed by this issue. They are also afraid to encompass the productive side of this.


Through this article, we have understood that this adaptive leadership is about prioritizing their employees. They focus on helping them grow and develop their skills. The leader here motivates their work to be productive. They unite altogether to get to a conclusion beneficial for the organization. They work for the betterment of the company.

This leadership is summed up based on four principles. These principles are having a transparent character, optimal talent mix, developing mutual trust, and distributed leadership.

The leader gives roles to the employees and members. This leadership requires oodles of effect and offers substantial returns.

Also, this leadership is about self-correction and reflection. They ensure that the organization is well aware of what the customers are thinking and what’s going outside. These are specific strategies present in adaptive leadership.

Being creative is encouraged and acknowledged. Each member of the company is treated equally, and their diversity of imagination is valued. Respect and value are some of the fundamental properties of adaptive leadership.

The respect is mutual, as the workers respect their leader; the leader similarly, respects and values their opinion. With several advantages, it also has disadvantages. Both are of equal importance. Go through them to determine what your need is.

So, what are your thoughts about adaptive leadership and their role in business management and leadership? Tell us what you think in the comments below.