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Leadership 2.0: Are You An Adaptive Leader?

One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior
leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So
they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy! "o
which Dilbert’s boss replies, “"hese meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.!
#reat leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. $ou know a great leader when you’re
working for one, but e%en great leaders can ha%e a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes
their leadership so effecti%e. #reat leadership is dynamic& it melds uni'ue skills into an integrated whole.
I (ust released a book, Leadership 2.0, which shares results from an intensi%e study that set out to separate the
leadership skills that get results from those that are inconse'uential or harmful. "he first thing our study
accomplished was pinpointing the )) leadership skills critical to performance. *ext, we looked closer at each
skill and disco%ered that they all fall into one of two categories+ the skills that get people into leadership
positions in the first place and the skills that the greatest leaders use to rise abo%e the rest. "he first set of skills
we deemed core leadership because together they form the basis of solid, producti%e leadership. "he latter set of
skills is called adapti%e leadership because these skills create dynamic, agile leaders who are incredibly
effecti%e in any en%ironment.
,e stumbled upon a new way to understand great leadership and an inno%ati%e method for any leader to
become great. -ore leadership can tighten your leadership game and make certain you ha%e the building blocks
in place to become an adapti%e leader. "he adapti%e leadership skills can enable you to see and understand the
specific actions the world’s greatest leaders take e%ery day. "hese things are not innate 'ualities of brilliant and
inspirational people that you should aspire to+ they are practical, repeatable skills that any leader can adopt with
Core Leadership
-ore leadership skills are the skills that get people promoted into leadership positions. .eople who naturally
demonstrate these skills are often labeled “born! leaders. -ore leadership skills are the foundation of effecti%e
leadership+ they won’t make you a great leader on their own, but you can’t do it without them. /xperienced
leaders will recogni0e the core leadership skills as a great opportunity to sharpen the saw and take a new look at
the skills they use e%ery day. 1spiring leaders can learn the core leadership skills to mold their own blade.
-ore 2eadership is3
Strategy – "alent hits a target that no one else can hit, but genius hits a target no one else can see. Strategy is
knowing how to look ahead, spot the trends, and anticipate the course of action you will follow to maximi0e
your success.
Action – 1n idea is a curious thing& it will not work unless you do. 4or most leaders, desire is not the factor that
holds them back& it’s knowing how to execute.
Results – It’s a myth that hard work is enough to achie%e results. 4ar too often obstacles are thrown in a
leader’s path that re'uire a special set of skills to reach the finish line.
Adaptive Leadership
"he adapti%e leadership skills represent the ma(or disco%ery from our research. "hat’s not to suggest we
“disco%ered! these skills. 5ather, we found that adapti%e leadership skills are what set great leaders apart+ these
skills represent the otherwise intangible 'ualities that great leaders ha%e in common. 1dapti%e leadership is a
uni'ue combination of skills, perspecti%e, and guided effort that enable true excellence. "he adapti%e leadership
skills can take a leader at any le%el to places others cannot go.
1dapti%e 2eadership is3
Eotional !ntelligence 6/motional intelligence is a set of skills that capture our awareness of our own
emotions and the emotions of others and how we use this awareness to manage oursel%es effecti%ely and form
'uality relationships.
"rgani#ational $ustice – #reat leaders don’t shy away from the truth. "hey know how to integrate what people
think, what they want to hear, and how they want to hear it with the facts. "his makes people feel respected and
Character – 2eaders who embody a true sense of character are transparent and forthcoming. "hey aren’t
perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.
%evelopent – "he moment leaders think they ha%e nothing more to learn and ha%e no obligation to help
de%elop those they lead is the moment they ensure they’ll ne%er know their true potential.
In addition to separating great leaders from the rest of the pack, adapti%e leadership skills are what leaders
o%erestimate their abilities in the most. ,e had leaders from a large cross section of industries rate themsel%es
in all )) core and adapti%e leadership skills. ,e also had the leaders’ peers, boss7es8, and direct reports answer
the same 'uestions about them, and we compared the scores. 1s the table that follows illustrates, the fi%e skills
in which leaders o%erestimate their abilities the most are all adapti%e leadership skills.
-ontrary to what Dilbert might ha%e us belie%e, leaders’ gaps in self6awareness are rarely due to deceitful,
9achia%ellian moti%es or se%ere character deficits. In most cases, leaders, like e%eryone else, %iew themsel%es
in a more fa%orable light than other people do. "he fact that leaders’ greatest o%erestimations are limited to the
adapti%e leadership skills shows how tough these skills are to master and how few leaders ha%e honed their
skills ade'uately. 1s rare as adapti%e leadership skills are, they present a perfect opportunity for leaders to get
an edge and take their game to the next le%el.