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Are You An Adaptive Leader?
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Adaptive Leadership

The adaptive leadership skills represent the major discovery from our research. That’s not to suggest we “discovered” these skills. Rather, we found that adaptive leadership skills are what set great leaders apart—these skills represent the otherwise intangible qualities that great leaders have in common. Adaptive leadership is a unique combination of skills, perspective, and guided effort that enable true excellence. The adaptive leadership skills can take a leader at any level to places others cannot go. You just need a process to follow, and that’s what Leadership 2.0 is all about.

Adaptive Leadership is . . .

Emotional Intelligence — Emotional intelligence is a set of skills that capture our awareness of our own emotions and the emotions of others and how we use this awareness to manage ourselves effectively and form quality relationships.

Organizational Justice — Great leaders don’t shy away from the truth. They know how to integrate what people think, what they want to hear, and how they want to hear it with the facts. This makes people feel respected and valued.

Character — Leaders who embody a true sense of character are transparent and forthcoming. They aren’t perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.

Development — The moment leaders think they have nothing more to learn and have no obligation to help develop those they lead is the moment they ensure they’ll never know their true potential.

In addition to separating great leaders from the rest of the pack, adaptive leadership skills are what leaders overestimate their abilities in the most. We had leaders from a large cross section of industries rate themselves in all 22 core and adaptive leadership skills. We also had the leaders’ peers, boss(es), and direct reports answer the same questions about them, and we compared the scores. As the table that follows illustrates, the five skills in which leaders overestimate their abilities the most are all adaptive leadership skills.

Contrary to what Dilbert might have us believe, leaders’ gaps in self-awareness are rarely due to deceitful, Machiavellian motives or severe character deficits. In most cases, leaders—like everyone else—view themselves in a more favorable light than other people do. The fact that leaders’ greatest overestimations are limited to the adaptive leadership skills shows how tough these skills are to master and how few leaders have honed their skills adequately. As rare as adaptive leadership skills are, they present a perfect opportunity for leaders to get an edge and take their game to the next level.  November 2012


Travis Bradberry, Ph.D. & Jean Greaves, Ph.D.

Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves are the award-winning authors of the #1 bestselling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounders of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. Their bestselling emotional intelligence books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Drs. Bradberry and Greaves have written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

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