Adaptive Leadership: A successful formula for reimagining your business from the top down

Disrupters have now become the disrupted. A global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and rapidly changing market predilections are challenging business leaders in ways many never imagined. So how do we deal with so much synchronous disruption while remaining profitable and relevant?

Many of our clients are asking this question. When the world is so fundamentally changing, we recommend going back to fundamentals. There is no better time than now to reimagine your business: strategically and holistically, from the top down. Here’s a successful formula that is helping several of our clients navigate this challenging terrain.

Be Humble

Arrogance has no place in an organization trying to make sense of chaos. Hearing “it’s worked before” or “we’ve always done it that way” should be instant red flags. The Board and C-suite must realize and agree that our old business methods are not suited for the new global standard. They should seek experienced counsel and embrace critical new ways of working to create and implement a more appropriate strategic vision. Accepting a new reality is perhaps one of the hardest things a corporate leader will do in their career. But those who really care about their organization and the people that work for them will buckle down, be willing to listen to new ideas, and make the necessary changes.

Adopt a Lean-Agile Mindset

Systems Thinking has never been more applicable than it is today. Employing fundamentals from this effective discipline brings new visibility and perspective to our company and its new operating environment. Incorporating rapid feedback loops into our culture gives us the insights needed to make smart decisions quickly. Adaptive behavior must become the new corporate standard—those who see themselves as implementers of change will become the new leaders, realizing that a Lean-Agile mindset is required to continually adapt to changing customer needs, unanticipated government regulations, a younger and more discerning workforce, increasingly harmful natural disasters, and other disrupters we can’t even contemplate today.

Re-Invent the Workplace

How our employees and associates engage with leaders and each other has forever been changed by recent events. Leveraging Lean-Agile principles, creating a culture of trust, transparency, diversity, and empowerment is the first order of business. Finding a “new normal” will take a series of experiments designed to find the sweet spot between working from home and occupying brick-and-mortar buildings. New compensation models should be created to keep the talent we want and shed those who are not capable of operating in our new workplace. Old security models should also be questioned—many of our clients are asking: “Which technologies are best for remote work?” and “How can I keep my virtual and physical environments secure from myriad threats?”

Create a Pliable Corporate Strategy

Tough times require tough decisions—no longer can senior leaders pretend that “business as usual” will pull them through. Resilience to rapidly changing circumstances is created by a strategic plan that continually adapts to real-world situations. But how do we create a corporate strategy that is both long-term and flexible? The best tool we have today is the one that Intel and Google used to dominate their industries—OKRs. Objectives and Key Results create a shared sense of purpose and give us the tools to easily measure business impact and progress toward our goals. They provide actionable, inciteful articulation of our company’s vision and allow us to quickly pivot to meet the next set of challenges as they arise. OKRs permit us to rapidly communicate corporate intent across the enterprise to the widest extent possible, and ensure all oars are pulling in the same direction.


A changing world requires organizations and their leaders to change along with it. Being willing to consider new ways of thinking and working is necessary for any organization that is looking to find their new North Star. Integrating adaptive change into our systems is the best way for us to continually evolve as our markets, competitors, and economies shift beneath our feet. Senior leaders who realize that the workforce and workplace have forever changed will create new compensation and retention models that take these differences into account. And communicating a comprehensive yet flexible corporate strategy up, down, and across the organization using OKRs is critical to its successful implementation.