Adaptive Leadership in a Complex and Turbulent World: How to lead change and survive
Adaptive Leadership in a Complex and Turbulent World: How to lead change and survive

Adaptive Leadership in a Complex and Turbulent World: How to lead change an...

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Ashridge House



United Kingdom

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The traditional leadership skills and competence that served you well when leading change in the past, will not be enough to make progress on the unknowable and intractable challenges we face in the future. 

In order to survive and thrive, organisations must be able to create the conditions to adapt to change and learn quickly. This is a leadership task - how can we create an environment that fosters and supports change and adaptation?

Adaptive Leadership

‘Adaptive Leadership’ is a distinctive approach to practising leadership, developed by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky at The Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University. It is based on over thirty years of research at Harvard, and is widely used in the commercial world of business, and politics, as well as the public and voluntary sectors.

Over the past 20 years, it has become a popular and effective leadership and organisational development framework because it is practical, helps individuals and organisations tackle the challenges of change as a process, and to recognize and diagnose the points of adaptation in the system – and where and what type of intervention will be most likely to result in sustainable change in an evolving organisation and environment. 

This immersive and intense workshop will introduce you to the core principles and concepts of Adaptive Leadership, along with practical tools to use in your leadership work. You will explore and develop your understanding of the dynamics of change during unpredictable times of transition and change, the ‘dangers’ of leadership, and what can be done to facilitate opportunities to create more distributed leadership. 

What you will get from this workshop

  • Increase your self-awareness and understand how your own leadership behaviour is both a resource and a constraint in addressing organisational challenges

  • Explore the relationship between competence, authority, leadership and knowing

  • Distinguish between ‘technical problems’ and ‘adaptive challenges’ and whether to respond to them with ‘authority’ or ‘leadership’

  • Hone your diagnostic and consulting skills so that you are able to design ‘smart risks’ and more effective interventions

  • Increase your capacity to have the authentic and courageous conversations that lead to the small shifts of awareness that make change happen

  • Increase your resilience and capacity to tolerate uncertainty, ambiguity, and to work with these in a creative potential space for learning and adaptation

  • Develop your awareness and response to ‘dis-equilibrium and the choices it provides

  • Develop an understanding of the concepts, tools and strategies you need to shift people towards achieving a collective purpose

  • Building your capability to work with others in leadership positions, so that they are ready to absorb losses, and renegotiate a new authority contract as the basis for change

  • Develop strong peer networks through mutual exchange and learning.

  • Stand back and reflect on your capability, vulnerabilities and development needs, and how to support yourself more effectively through challenging and demanding times.

Who will benefit from this workshop?

The workshop is designed for a mixed group of specialist and non-specialist directors, senior managers, HR practitioners and consultants working in the public, commercial and charity sectors who are grappling with change - trying to make it work, get results, and who want to enhance their own capacity to exercise leadership and mobilise the leadership of others. Participants will be drawn from as many different areas as possible in order to create a diverse group. The workshop will benefit in particular: 

Directors, senior managers and organisation consultants who

  • Are responsible for leading an organisation, department or function through a change initiative e.g. merger, restructuring, implementing or reviewing a new strategy

  • Are new in role or are in transition to take up a more strategic role in their organisation

  • Need to develop their skills to take people with them through change, better manage and understand the process to deliver sustainable change

  • Work in a matrix structure with multiple lines of accountability and authority, and who need to work with multiple stakeholders and colleagues to deliver the organisation’s objectives

  • Want to understand and manage their own response to leading change, and the powerful emotions that can be generated to make individuals, teams and organisations ‘immune’ to change.


"In June 2016, I had the privilege of participating in a two-day Adaptive Leadership workshop which was designed and led by Mary. The experience was very valuable in that it enabled me to develop both theoretical and practical insights into this model – one which I see as bringing the best thinking and practice to the many thorny issues involving leadership, and how it can be more productively worked with at all levels of organisations. 

The model’s concepts of leading beyond one’s ‘formal’ authority, and distinguishing technological ‘fixes’ from adaptive challenges, were some of the key learnings for me. I was able to collaboratively reframe some previously intractable challenges in a client organisation and progress them productively. This was one great benefit from an overall rewarding workshop experience – I thoroughly recommend it."

- Rob Ryan, Director of wisdom+work

"In these turbulent times, when often the way ahead is uncertain, this workshop, enabled me to stay firmly grounded in the fundamentals of building the right connections among people to get things done. It highlighted the ‘competing commitments’ that frequently get in the way of sustaining progress. It offered a way of addressing the ensuing organisational blocks by diagnosing the conflicting values at play, and helped in the process of choosing necessary actions to address tricky situations.

I could not recommend this workshop highly enough for its sound theoretical and practical framework. The benefits to me as an organisational analyst, and as a leadership coach, have been experienced by my organisational clients across a variety of cultural contexts from Africa to Asia as well as across the more developed world. "

- Frances Heery, Organisational Analyst & Leadership Coach

Further Information

To find out more, read the full brochure here.

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