How to Adapt Leadership During Periods of Growth
As a strong leader yourself, you already know that good leaders simultaneously extract the best qualities from their employees and also work to instill the qualities that drive your organization’s growth and progress. You work hard to have your work reflect your company’s vision and your employees follow your lead. But what happens when your organization starts to see real growth? What was working so well during your last growth phase or what worked when you were getting the company off the ground may not work for the next growth phase. Effective leaders can seamlessly adapt their leadership styles to changes without missing a beat. This article provides solutions that leaders can use to adapt to specific changes that will take your growth trends to the next level.
The Importance of Adaptive Leadership
You are already familiar with the normal small-scale types of changes that happen in your business: staff turnover, workload fluctuations and resource availability. You have to adapt to these changes, so you adjust your management styles as needed. There is a growing movement in the business world focusing on what is called adaptive leadership. This leadership methodology focuses on knowing how to lead effectively in a rapidly changing environment.
Adaptive leaders can sail forward smoothly with integrity regardless of the state of the seas because they are prepared with a cool demeanor and contingency plans that will get results. Leaders who employ an adaptive style are self-motivated, focused on performance and have high levels of emotional intelligence. They know how to appropriately delegate and can remain level-headed in tense or hectic scenarios, thereby taking only calculated actions with results in mind.
As an adaptive leader, you should do the following:
- Know how to navigate diverse business environments
- Lead from a place of empathy and emotional awareness
- Participate in regular self-reflection
- Create win-win solutions when problems arise
What Kind of Leader are You?
It’s a good idea to identify what kind of leader you are right now before you start the process. It can be your first step towards becoming an adaptive leader, seeing as adaptive leaders regularly engage in self-reflection. Ask yourself, what type of leader am I? Then, ask yourself what kind of leader you would like to become for this stage of your business’s lifecycle. Where are areas for improvement, and where are areas in which you already shine?
- Egocentric leader – Egocentric leaders rely heavily on explicitly telling others what to do and then micromanaging. If you find it hard to delegate and trust your employees to do their work without having to constantly monitor their progress, you may be in this stage
- Reactive leader – Reactive leaders tend to buy into a very structured and organized job hierarchy that relies too much on top-down control. If you feel that your comfort zone is in positions that rely on traditional power structures predominantly, you may be in this category
- Creative leader – These individuals lead from a place of internal motivation and uphold their values in their actions. Creative leaders create a good environment for change because they are more adaptive and open-minded
- Integral leader –These leaders are good at handling moving parts, conflicts and complex problems. This paves the way for sophisticated solutions to develop. Integral leaders are rare, but many organizations work towards attracting top talent that can develop into integral leaders
- Unitive leaders – These leaders shun hierarchal structures and operate from a standpoint that all are one, all are valuable at creating and finding solutions to big problems. This is the rarest form of leadership because it’s hard to master. Open communication and trust with your employees are good first steps to working towards this leadership style
The Different Ways a Company Will Grow
According to Forbes, companies can grow based on two factors: whether they are growing by remaining in their current market or by entering new markets. From here, companies tend to adapt their sales and marketing efforts accordingly. They may focus their efforts on offering new products or services to existing customers based on what they already know about these customers. Alternatively, an organization can enter an entirely new market and gain new customers by taking their previously existing product or service and marketing this to a new group of potential buyers.
Regardless of which route your organization chooses to take, there are some commonalities—most importantly, your business’s growth is essential to its survival and economic well-being. If your organization stagnates, it will lag in any market it enters. There are several ways in which companies generally focus on achieving growth:
- A cost-effective way to increase sales is to appeal to your existing customers rather than explicitly targeting new customers
- When you do get new customers, ask for referrals and testimonials
- Innovate your products and services to adapt to changing markets—anticipate trends before they happen to gain a competitive edge
- Deepen the reach of your products and services by establishing presences in new locations, whether online or brick-and-mortar. Try new advertising and marketing campaigns, measuring what works and what does not. Take it the extra mile by participating in networking events near and far
- Establish yourself in a niche market and gain customer loyalty there
- Maintain reasonable costs by studying what is working and what is not working. Don’t be afraid to cut and liquidate products or services when they are not effective
- Diversify services and appeal to buyers in new ways
- Export and expand into international markets when appropriate. One way to do this is to look into franchising
How to Enhance Your Leadership During Growth Phases
Once you have pinned down the growth strategies that work for your organization, it will be time to consider how your leadership techniques will need to adapt. It’s a great idea to focus on molding your leadership style into one that allows for adaptability as your company grows. Consider the following stages of leadership through various growth periods to get an idea of healthy development:
- Seek out help – Envision and manage every step you might take by teaming up with other individuals whose skills can benefit your organization. For example, perhaps you are the inventor of an exciting new product that will crush the market, but you don’t have any experience in marketing. Recruit a trusted advisor or co-founder to help you envision a marketing strategy so that you can put all your best work into your product. Just because you share your work with someone else does not mean that you are not positioning yourself as a capable and strong leader
- Build a team – In the early days, you built a small staff to help you with tasks. It’s a good idea to know how to delegate tasks to other employees so that, once again, you can focus on getting your product into the market. Hire a small team that will handle things such as bookkeeping and social media. Once you begin to grow, slowly add on to your team in a way that complements your strengths. You are the visionary and the leader, and your team should enhance this because you routinely involve them in planning, strategy and otherwise carrying forward the company’s vision.
- Recruit outstanding talent – At this stage, you can begin to remove yourself from the day-to-day operations of your business. Your leadership has to evolve into more of a behind-the-scenes type because you are now able to bring in outstanding talent who can do their jobs independently. Remember, you will be able to learn from these individuals, just as they can learn from you. Your leadership now has to evolve into trusting your employees and collaborating with them
- Lead and mentor – Your business can now handle its day-to-day operations without you breaking your back to help get everything accomplished. You have established teams, effective managers of such teams and efficient processes that self-regulate. Your leadership now serves to motivate and engage by offering senior leadership and mentorship to stellar employees. You invest in your employees and they invest in your business
Failure to adjust how you lead in times of growth can lead to stress and frustration. Being prepared as an adaptive leader before this happens can help to prevent that. Revisit the stepping-stones for enhancing your leadership skills with the following:
- Time management – Effective time management as a leader means that you are can work efficiently, have yourself and your staff analyze workload, assign priorities and maintain focus and productivity
- Solution-based problem-solving – This involves operating from a place of optimism that any problem has an effective and outstanding solution. Using focused critical thinking skills and creativity can help break boundaries and come up with radical new approaches to old problems. This involves discipline and focused action to make outstanding solutions a priority
- Communication – Effective leadership is not an inherent trait for most people. As leaders, it’s important to make a concerted effort to be a stellar communicator. You should model for your team how to talk and behave in the workplace, including that employees and teams are passing along information the right when it’s necessary to do so. Be sure that your employees know how to use clarity and brevity so that wires don’t cross. The best way to do this is to model it for them and make your expectations clear
The subject of leadership in business is always developing and updating. New leadership tactics are being developed and old tactics are being revolutionized. Companies must remain competitive and adaptive as markets inevitably change. A good way to start taking a critical look at your leadership methods is to take KnowledgeCity’s course, “Learning to Lead.” This course will help you uncover, in-depth, what kind of leader you are and how you can identify both your strengths and areas for improvement. Furthermore, it helps you identify ways that you can develop individually and as part of a team. Allow yourself to become not just an adequate leader but a stellar leader. Give yourself the toolset to be able to navigate growth periods gracefully.