The Adaptive Leader: Strategies for Guiding Teams in an Era of Exponential Change

When Google hired Ray Kurzweil to focus on the development of new technology, he had already established his reputation as an insightful futurist.

He had received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1999 from US President Bill Clinton; received his country’s largest cash prize for invention; and been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

And he had written The Singularity is Near, where he used his visionary expertise to explain just how fast society is changing – in fact, not just how fast society is changing, but how fast how fast society is changing, is changing:

“My models show that we are doubling the paradigm-shift rate every decade,”

he says. Or, in other words,

“We won’t experience one hundred years of technological advance in the 21st century; we will witness on the order of 20,000 years of progress… or about 1,000 times greater than what was achieved in the 20th century.”

Change has always been a major topic of discussion in leadership – after all, if leadership is influence, as John Maxwell says, leadership is impossible without change.

But change is not just something that leaders must deal with. It is a constant. Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management, believed that every product should be assessed every 3 years. Bill Gates, too, saw that Microsoft products could only be good for 3 years. He said,

“The question is whether we will make them obsolete or someone else will.”

In short, change is a force whose influence leaders must constantly be aware of – and compensating for!

It is easy to hesitate to implement change. Just last week I shared about the leader’s decision-making dilemma – the quicker the decision, the more confidence and stability we communicate; the more delayed, the more facts we have to work with.

Plus, change is intimidating – for leaders and for their teams. People often resist change, and even fear it, because they prefer the familiar over the unknown. Leaders must be sure that different teams and departments are changing in step with each other. And then, once the change has started, there is the matter of supporting the change, monitoring it, and adjusting it further.

But those who do not adopt change as a fixture of leadership will be left behind in a world moving forward so fast!

So then, how do leaders harness this force for the good of their teams and organizations?

1. Develop a clear vision and strategy. 

Problem: people are uncomfortable with change because they fear the unknown or the unfamiliar. Solution: provide them clarity and specifics about the new approach. Not only does having a specific goal and detailed plan give direction for the change, but it also demystifies change for teams and helps gain their support.

2. Communicate openly and consistently. 

Communication is a crucial skill for the daily operation of any workplace, let alone a season of change – in essence, it’s the maker or breaker of any project, product, or initiative. Think about it like this: your organization is made up of many people working together for one goal. In order to accomplish that goal, they all need to have the same insight.

Leaders can help the implementation of change by communicating clearly and specifically, sharing details at the start and updates all throughout.

3. Involve and support your team. 

If leaders are the mind of an organization, its team members are the arms and legs. Thoughts are powerful, but nothing happens until something moves!

When your team is invested in change – when they feel like they are involved and actively engaged – your endeavor will become their endeavor. Address their concerns; offer them feedback; encourage forward-thinking behaviors, and allow them to celebrate successes.

One of history’s greatest leaders, Winston Churchill, said of change,

“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.”

And if I might be so bold as to add to the thoughts of Mr. Churchill, I would say that to be perfect is to continue changing – because the world certainly will!

Leaders, take this next week to establish a vision for your and your team’s relationship with change. Consider how well, and how quickly, you could adapt to new conditions, and consider how effectively you could improve that turnaround for later change.

That’s all for now,


P.S. As a leadership consultant, I have helped several leaders harness change for their benefit. If you’d like a thinking partner to cast a clear vision and develop a winning strategy, I would be happy to help. Click here to schedule a quick call.

Get My Free Guide: 5 Strategies for Retaining Top Talent

Voluntary turnover it’s an ALARMINGLY preventable problem.

To combat this, I have outlined five leadership strategies that will keep your top performers leaned in and performing.