11 Advantages and Disadvantages of Adaptive Leadership Styles

Adaptive leaders have one unique advantage over all other leadership styles: they are able to adjust their approach to leadership based on the situation they face. Instead of forcing one type of leadership in all situations, an adaptive leader is able to evaluate their circumstances and adjust their approach whenever it is necessary.

That means an adaptive leader must be familiar with all leadership styles and be able to implement them. It is a skill that is not present in every leader.

Here are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of adaptive leadership styles which can be seen in the modern workplace.

List of the Advantages of Adaptive Leadership

1. This is a leadership style that can be practiced by anyone.
You don’t need to be in a leadership position to practice adaptive leadership. It is something that anyone can practice if they are able to come up with an innovative approach to a challenge they are facing. The trademark of someone practicing this leadership style is that they are able to implement the changes they’ve created when examining a problem, which eventually leads to a solution.

2. It allows for a deeper level of leadership to be practiced.
Although team members might tackle similar projects each day, every person on the team has unique individual needs which must be met. Practicing one leadership style may not be able to meet those needs in a satisfactory way. With adaptive leadership, a leader is able to approach each project, situation, and worker in a way that will maximize the impact of the encounter. People working for adaptive leaders tend to feel appreciated more often for what they are doing.

3. Thinking outside of the box is a regular event.
How many times have you heard someone complain when change happens in the workplace? “But this is how we always do it!” With an adaptive leader at the helm, it is easier for teams to start thinking outside the box. Instead of being boxed in by traditional methods and tools that have worked in the past, teams begin to look for new ways to do things that are better. This helps employers find solutions that are creative and can help them eventually create more results.

4. Adaptive leaders expect change to happen.
Most leadership styles are built around how to properly react to changes that occur in the work environment. Adaptive leaders take a different approach. They are proactive about changes occurring. They expect plans will change. This gives them a unique ability to read the terrain of any project, be prepared for changing circumstances, and implement a plan to counter the issue before it becomes problematic. There is always at least one contingency plan in place when an adaptive leader is around.

5. It places people into positions where they can use their strengths.
Adaptive leaders know that workers are more than warm bodies. They are skilled technicians who bring specific strengths to the team. These leaders look to place the right people into the correct positions where their professional strengths will shine. At the same time, these leaders look to provide resources to people for their professional development, which lets their strengths become even stronger.

6. Adaptive leaders focus on diversity.
Some leadership styles prefer to hear only one voice during a project. Adaptive leaders prefer to hear many voices. When people come from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, then they are able to provide unique perspectives to the situations they encounter. More ideas equate to better results over the long-term in almost every situation. Adaptive leaders invite this process because it makes everyone better while enhancing the results which can be achieved.

7. Adaptive leaders have a high level of emotional intelligence.
One of the greatest strengths an adaptive leader displays is their ability to read the emotions of any situation. Their emotional intelligence allows them to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are being offered in the workplace. Then they can create a plan of assistance for each person, which allows workers a chance to maximize their productivity every day.

8. It is a leadership style that focuses on the moment.
Adaptive leaders are concerned with outcomes, just like any other leadership style. The difference here is that an adaptive leader is less concerned about existing rules and structures. They want to achieve the best possible result in the easiest possible way. To do that, adaptive leaders tend to see rules as a guideline instead of a strict structure which must be followed. If they need to be bent, then bend them. If they need to be broken, then they probably weren’t good rules to have in the first place.

List of the Disadvantages of Adaptive Leadership

1. It may cause some workers to avoid their assignments.
Some workers need to have a highly structured team environment to produce results consistently. Adaptive leaders tend to run an unstructured environment. They will attempt to add structure to the work routines of the employees who need it, though that is different than adding structure to an entire team. In this situation, some workers may procrastinate on their assignments because they are afraid to embrace the creative side of the process.

2. It can require a shift in personal values.
To be adaptive, leaders must do more than approach their direct reports with a different style or attitude. They must also be willing to experience a shift in their attitudes, values, and behaviors. That can be difficult for many leaders because it doesn’t feel natural to make this shift. People can feel like they’re being disloyal to themselves if they shift an attitude to meet the needs of a specific employee.

3. Adaptive leaders sometimes break the rules.
Some leaders focus on making decisions in an effortless way. They create an intuitive environment where work is automatic and tactical. This is sometimes needed in the workplace because results must be consistent. Adaptive leaders are more likely to break these rules when they feel like there is a need to make a change. Instead of fast, automatic decisions, they take a slow and conscious approach. Although they are logical and strategic in this approach, it may require a time structure that may not be available to the employer at that point in time.

The advantages and disadvantages of the adaptive leadership styles do place the employee first. They focus on what people need to carve out their own path toward success. To reach that goal, each worker must be personally motivated to be productive. If workers need exterior motivations to keep going, they may find it difficult to be successful under the supervision of an adaptive leader.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.