Dare to be an adaptable

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Melvina Smith
  • 71st Mission Support Group superintendent

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- “According to Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species,’ it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” -- Prof. Leon Megginson

If you have been in the Air Force a couple of years you have probably heard the saying “Adapt and overcome” a time or two. There is a reason for that. Change is inevitable.

Despite constant change in policy and procedures, downsizing, or mergers, the adaptable leader capitalizes on these times and finds efficiency and process improvements.

According to David Capece, an adjunct professor of Marketing at the University of Tampa in Florida, adaptable leaders maximize success in a rapidly changing future. This requires vision and the ability to adapt and execute.

Adaptability is a critical skillset needed as you go forward in today’s Air Force. It requires emotional intelligence and self-control and is a desirable trait both in the service as well as in the civilian sector.

So what can you do to strengthen your skillset and be more adaptable? Embrace change so you aren’t the one that stagnates the growth of the team. Foster that same transformation within others to enhance the organization and strengthen mission accomplishment.

Adaptable leaders don’t always have to win. As influential leaders they build relationships that allow for comprise and collaboration to ensure mission accomplishments.

According to Philip Murphy, in the post, “Adaptability: The Most Valued Leadership Skill,” on the leadership blogsite “Thin Difference,” there are five methods a leader can use to be effective:
 Think outside the box -- Champion innovation and change as mission and policy changes.
 Be an early adopter -- Embrace change, processes, software and system.
 Don’t just say no -- Be open minded and optimistic so you can facilitate the change.
 Plan for the time of the year -- Look ahead to work towards process improvements.
 It all begins in the morning -- Be spontaneous, not predictable. Be willing to shake things up as needed to create a momentum throughout the day.

Adaptable leaders facilitate change, working with those around them to achieve a goal. They are decisive, possess solid people skills and are self-aware while balancing the needs of each area.

According to Travis Bradberry in his book, “Leadership 2.0,” this style of leadership sets great leaders apart and can take a leader at any level to places others cannot go. It encompasses emotional intelligence and organizational justice.

Emotional intelligence makes us aware of our own emotions and the emotions of others so we can manage ourselves effectively and form quality relationships.

Organizational justice integrates what people think, what they want to hear and how they want to hear to make others feel respected and valued.

Being adaptable is an active form of leadership versus a passive form. You are able to adjust to changing circumstances, bosses or even environments. Whether you are in charge of a detail or deployed overseas, your leadership style acclimates to the culture and environment. Moreover, you nurture this same trait in others so the organization can be more effective.

Jim Highsmith, in his book, “Adaptive Leadership,” writes that four core mindsets identify adaptive leaders:
    Adapting -- Responding to the unknown and being flexible
    Exploring -- Being comfortable with unfolding circumstances and embracing change. This includes bringing clarity to ambiguous situations.
    Facilitating -- More facilitating than demanding. They create a self-organizing and disciplined team.
    Riding Paradox – Enhance through integrative thinking.