Adaptive leaders are curious

By Jim LaDoux
 In an ever-changing world, leadership . It requires a different kind of approach - one that is adaptive, collaborative, and empowering. And one of the key traits that adaptive leaders possess is curiosity. Being naturally curious allows them to explore and experiment with new ideas, learn from their failures, and lead their team to success. In this article, we’ll discuss how this trait can make you an effective adaptive leader, the four styles of adaptive leadership, and how adaptive leaders navigate change.

Are you willing to risk failure?

Being naturally curious means that you're willing to take risks and try new things, even if it means failing. The ability to embrace failure as a learning opportunity is crucial for adaptive leaders, as it gives them the chance to evaluate what went wrong and adjust their approach accordingly. This mindset also helps them encourage their team to explore new ideas and take calculated risks. Fostering a culture that embraces experimentation can lead to innovative solutions and a more engaged team.

1 | Learn from results

Adaptive leaders understand the importance of learning from results, both good and bad. They analyze what worked well and what didn't, and use this information to make better decisions in the future. This approach is essential in a rapidly changing environment where quick decision-making is necessary. By being data-driven and evaluating outcomes, adaptive leaders can identify the best path forward and stay ahead of the curve

2 | Learn the art of noticing

An adaptive leader is also skilled at paying attention to their surroundings and noticing things that others might overlook. They are tuned into the needs of their team and are proactive in addressing issues before they become bigger problems. This ability to observe subtle changes in the environment helps them anticipate challenges and capitalize on opportunities. Being observant, agile, and responsive is critical for success in today's business environment.

3 | Engage in crucial conversations

Adaptive leaders also excel in having crucial conversations that can be difficult but are necessary to resolve conflicts or address sensitive issues. They approach these discussions with empathy, active listening, and the willingness to find a mutually beneficial solution. By engaging in these conversations, adaptive leaders build trust, encourage open communication, and foster a culture of transparency.

4 | Make bold requests

Being naturally curious means having the courage to make bold requests and ask for what you need. Adaptive leaders are confident in their abilities and are not afraid to ask for help, resources, or support when needed. They inspire their team to strive for excellence and set high goals, pushing them to achieve more than they thought possible.

5 | Adapt your leadership style to match the situation

Use different styles for different settings. Common styles include:
  • The Commander. When the situation demands fast action or when others don't know what to do or respond, a take-charge style is often most appropriate.
  • The Catalyst. The catalyst ensures that team members are motivated and working together.
  • The Coach. A coach works from the sidelines to provide instruction and motivation, confronting team members when they aren't performing well.
  • The Consultant. Motivated, competent people respond well to this relaxed approach to leading.

6 | Create systems to support ongoing change

According to the authors of Switch, adapting to change involves
  • Directing the rider (the conscious mind) by providing clarity, direction, and next steps.
  • Motivating the elephant (the subconscious) by engaging emotions to get everyone on the same path, and
  • Shaping the path (the situation) by making the environment more conducive to the change people are seeking.

Learn to:
  1. Observe and interpret events and patterns around you; developing multiple hypotheses about what is really going on, and if the concern is broad-based or held by just a few.
  2. Design interventions based on observations that frame the adaptive challenge in constructive ways.
  3. Analyze the factions that begin to emerge, seeking to understand their motivations and assumptions. Note the shifts in people's authority and responsibilities, and where people's desire for control shows up.
  4. Find the feeling. Engage people’s emotions. Identify where people’s energy lies and how to tap into it. 
  5. Shrink the change. Break down the change until it seems manageable. Involve lots of people who are willing to take small steps toward transformation.

With the right mindset and leadership style, you can foster a culture of innovation and success. Being curious i adaptive leaders. Be willing to take risks. Learn from results.  Notice your surroundings. Have strategic, crucial conversations, and make bold requests. So, embrace your curiosity and become an adaptive leader that inspires your team to reach their full potential.


  1. Look for ways to encourage habits.
  2. How do you cultivate a sense of identity and instill a growth mindset within your team?
  3. How can you help leaders be more resilient?
  4. Do your people know where you're going and why it’s worth it?
  5. Do your leaders look for the bright spots? Celebrate them? Build on them?
  6. Is there a sense of urgency within your organization?
  7. What systems and habits need to be imbedded in the culture to sustain the desired changes?
  8. What's your teams' definition of  an adaptive leader?  
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