When focusing on developing your expertise as a leader, there are many characteristics which you can list off as a must-have skill for the role. What words spring to mind? Passion, perhaps? Integrity, honesty, communication…but how about adaptability? It is often left off of the list and is one of the most underrated skills a good leader can possess.


What is Adaptability?

To understand adaptability, you first must understand the meaning. From a dictionary perspective it means to adjust oneself readily to different conditions – the keyword, of course, being ‘readily’. While we can all adapt to change, it may not necessarily be a want or even a desire on our part; and many leaders struggle with the consistent change in a challenging environment. However, in the changeable business landscape of today, adaptability is a much sought after skill.
We all have the basic ability to adapt – we learn these skills at a young age when we are introduced to different environments, sights and sounds. But as we age, we get set in our ways and lose the ability to adapt to new situations as easily. We start to resist change seeking the often well-trodden easier neural path.
But the good news is we can be taught to adapt. We can learn to take ourselves out of our comfort zones regardless of our level or position in the organisation. And it can help us with all aspects of our lives when sudden changes occur. Soft skill training such as this is generally more difficult than learning a tangible skill, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.

Alter Behaviours to Achieve Adaptability

Like any muscle in our body it can be exercised, enabling us to look for new opportunities, to try out new things and be open to new ideas. Experiential learning to assist with aspects such as creativity and problem solving is necessary to help retrain our thought patterns. You can take on tasks to learn new skills or request new jobs in your regular workday to stretch your safety zone.
Being aware and staying alert to change should be at the forefront of your mind. Reassess your current structures and always try to keep an open mind. Maintaining a closed attitude will limit your ability to adapt in the long term. Don’t be afraid to overturn your past decisions in favour of new ones. It is about taking different paths and letting go of the fear of the unknown that often accompanies such a journey.

Adaptability Requires Emotional Change

Adaptability is not just about a shift in our mindset; it also encompasses a behavioural and emotional change. The emotional aspect can be the most difficult – changing those thought patterns from negative to positive. It is not, by any means, an overnight change. Having this resilience in your toolkit will enable you to stay ahead of the pack and think differently from other less pliable leaders.
Encouragement from all levels of the organisation to seek alternative methods of action is necessary to ensure that soft skills like this are enabled to their full potential. Clear guidance from other mentors is also necessary to make sure that it remains a priority for the long-term benefit of the business.
Change and uncertainty is a part of everyday life and having the skills to navigate make the handling of such issues so much easier. So what can you do today that bears slightly off course from your standard routine? Remember, it’s the small steps that can often make the biggest differences over time.

How are you making steps towards being an adaptable leader? Who is keeping you accountable? With an Executive Coach and Mentor from LeadershipHQ you can be kept focussed on the path that is going to accelerate your career. Get in touch today to find out more.

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  1. Interesting perspective associating adaptability with emotional change. I have watched some cadets join previous teams and struggle to adapt, but I believe they had the emotional drive to achieve certain tasks. In a way, I feel like the adaptability struggles they had may have related to the issue of the lack of investment into the mastery of their task and the understanding of the mechanics behind the process they were undertaking.

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