Commentary Search

Effective adaptability — how can you become a better leader?

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Sally White
  • 90th Medical Operations Squadron
We all know people who can quickly adjust to any situation they are put in. They possess a quality we all need--effective adaptability.

Author Allan Calarco of Adaptability: Responding Effectively to Change, defines this as the ability to adjust to an unexpected situation by actively seeking information and demonstrating openness and support of different and innovative ideas.

It is important to adjust to rapidly changing situations and Airmen can do this by having cognitive, emotional and dispositional flexibility. A balance of these three key elements is critical to the developing, attaining and achieving effective adaptability.

Cognitive flexibility is the mental framework that allows the use of different thinking strategies to adjust to the presented situation. Emotional flexibility allows a member to modify their emotions in their approach. Dispositional flexibility is the ability to remain optimistic and realistic. If you were to analyze the qualities of people who adapt quickly to situations they are put in, you will notice they have successfully balanced the three elements that allow effective adaptability.

The inability to adapt to change can have severe negative consequences that may destroy a person's self-confidence, and ultimately the way leadership and subordinates' perceptions of them as an effective leader. Adaptability is learned through experiences both in life and formal training. It is an important capability that must be taught and developed. As a leader it is important to develop this trait in our Airman. They must be put into situations that test their ability to react and accomplish the required mission. At the same time it is important leaders give their Airmen the room to make mistakes and learn from them. This learning environment will develop the traits and characteristics required to be successful in our ever changing Air Force.

As leaders, it is important to remember all eyes are watching us. Airmen's reactions will be based on what they learn from us. Our Airmen need to know their leadership will listen to their ideas, provide feedback and jump in feet-first if needed to make necessary changes. Leaders who demonstrate effective adaptability will provide Airmen the experience and training to be adaptable. It is important to embrace change and use it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Demonstrating effective adaptability will strengthen you, your team and your organization.