The Adaptable Organization Series

Part 2: The Leader

Posted by Don Miller and Tiffany McDowell on August 13, 2019.

In “Part 1: The Individual” of our five-part blog series, we explored how individuals united by a common purpose make up the core of an Adaptable Organization. However, these individuals should be empowered and guided by versatile leaders who are able to energize, empower, and connect people across the organization.

In the Adaptable Organization, leaders exist at all levels and are inclusive orchestrators who foster an environment for high-performing teams.

To be able to transition successfully to the Adaptable Organization, leaders must drive change. Leadership has traditionally been hierarchical and somewhat monolithic; leadership roles have conventionally been given to those considered most expert or experienced. But flattening hierarchy to a distributed, team-based model demands leadership at every level and allows leaders to emerge in the “hidden networks.”

Complexity demands leadership and versatility.

In an adaptive context, three leadership capabilities become paramount: the ability to Energize, Empower, and Connect.

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019

Leaders should Energize their people, articulate a compelling vision, instill common goals, and provide belonging. To build and sustain an Adaptable Organization, leaders should be able to galvanize all people, regardless of personality, background, or motivation.

Leaders should Empower others. It is unrealistic to expect a handful of people at the top of an organization to always have the best answers and ideas. Leaders should delegate responsibility and relinquish control to leverage the collective abilities of the entire organization. Encouraging experimentation and continuous learning and instilling a fail-fast mentality in those that they lead should become their role.

The ability of leaders to Connect means encouraging collaboration across boundaries, connecting silos and unlocking potential synergies to support and strengthen networks of teams. It’s important for leaders to be optimistic about the capabilities of others, drive collaboration, be inclusive, and value the contribution of a diverse range of individuals to unlock hidden potential.

Identifying and developing leadership qualities at all levels of the organization drives adaptive potential.

With the shift to purpose-driven teams in an Adaptable Organization, it is critical that talented leaders exist at all levels. Therefore, organizations should focus sharply on developing the ability to Energize, Empower, and Connect in their leaders and leadership pipelines. Identify individuals who are naturally “wired” to lead effectively in this style, and who have the raw material to develop these capabilities in real time—and then invest in initiatives that focus on their development.

How leaders lead is the key factor determining the transition to an Adaptable Organization. Effective leaders must embrace change, navigate ambiguity and complexity, and harness an increasingly diverse workforce.

In this post, we took a deep dive into the type of Leaders who can drive success in the Adaptable Organization. The next post in this series, “Part 3: The Team”, will take a holistic look at ways Individuals and Leaders can come together to form high-performing, adaptable teams.

Don Miller is a managing director in Human Capital Practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP. He serves as the US Analytics leader for Deloitte’s Human Capital Organization Transformation & Talent practice and also serves on Deloitte’s Global Organization Design and Decision Solutions leadership team.

Tiffany McDowell is an Organization Transformation principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice and leads Deloitte’s Organization Strategies Market Offering. She focuses on delivering operating model, organization design, talent strategies, and global change management solutions for large-scale transformation projects.


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