In their article “Adaptive leadership: When change is not enough (part one)”, Glover, Friedman, and Jones (2002), state that modern knowledge of human organizations and leadership has evolved to such a high level that it can now allow people to control and adapt it to be compatible with the dynamic business environment. In this article, the authors have developed an adequate argument to support their thesis that adaptive leadership is the most important issue in fostering effective change in organizations (Glover, Rainwater, Jones & Friedman, 2002). Moreover, the authors have proposed four fundamental skills for practicing adaptive leadership in modern organizations: cultural competency, creation of synergy, knowledge management, and adaptive vision. This paper aims at developing an in-depth critique of the work by Glover, Friedman, and Jones (2002). Arguably, the argument “modern knowledge of human organizations and leadership has evolved to a high level that it can now allow people to control and adapt it to be compatible with the dynamic business environment” (Friedman and Jones, 2002) holds in the modern context. This is because research developed in the last two decades shows that human knowledge and leadership have become an important part of organizational change in managing through dynamic environments.
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In the modern context, business and social environments are highly dynamic. Also, the dynamism is increasing every year. The impact of this phenomenon is that contemporary leaders in organizations have to face challenges associated with change. Contemporary leaders in communities, corporations as well as governments are forced to seek new and better methods of doing business to maneuver and survive their organizations through the constantly changing environments. For instance, they have to look for better methods of doing business, ranging from technological transfer, development of mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures, management of diversity, focusing on markets and globalization of organizations, protection of environment and management of diversity in their institutions. Over the last two decades, scholars have shown the need for adaptive leadership in facing these challenges. For instance, it has become evident that leading change initiatives in contemporary organizations is important, but cannot be effective without a focus on adaptation in different environments.
Using examples such as the inability of a US marine admiral to develop adaptation methods to new statistical skills among his 2,200 soldiers, the authors point out that adaptation is the continuous process through which leaders assimilate information from the environment and accommodate their organizations to certain contexts to manage change. One tends to agree with this argument based on several management facts. For instance, it has been shown that organizational leadership based on change management has been one of the main research focuses in the last 30 years. A large volume of research developed in the last three decades shows that leading and managing change is developed from the vast knowledge in human skills and the ability to use new information in their leadership capacities (Bolman & Deal, 2008). However, most organizations tried to apply these aspects of research in the past but have failed. The major reason for such a failure is the inability to focus on adaptation.
For instance, it is always possible, and very important indeed, to acquire as much knowledge as possible and use it in managing organizational change. However, this task does not necessarily mean that the results will be positive in a dynamic environment. The most important feature needed to be applied when embedding new knowledge and skills in change management and leadership is the adaptation of these skills into the specific organization. This argument is shown in the authors’ explanation that the degree to which one can adapt new knowledge and ideas to an organizational environment must always be based on the ability to rethink the ideas and practices concerning leadership in determining the organizational future. Again, this argument is true because several researchers and authors have proved that adapting ideas and knowledge to an organization requires extensive awareness of the specific institution under question. For instance, Hall (1976) argues that human relationships with their environment, extensions and institutions and the relationships between individuals are important in determining our future. Since these relationships create crisis, new technologies and knowledge cannot be the ultimate solution to the crisis if there is no focus on their adaptation to the situation on the ground.
Adaptive change goes beyond the simple tasks of sharpening human skills and processes. It challenges the human beliefs and ways of thinking. It requires a different approach to taking tasks using any new technology, information or idea that may be considered important at one time.
In conclusion, the authors’ argument seems to hold in the modern context. For instance, Heifitz and Linsky (2002) have shown that failure to recognize adaptive challenges in an organizational situation tends to make managers think that staff behavior is resistance. There is a need to ensure that each new idea, technology or piece of information is embedded into an organization through adapting it to the organizational culture and traditions. Patton (2007) has shown that adaptive challenges require that people in an organization with the problem be part of the solution to the problem, with the new technology or ideas being a factor to enhance the process of finding the best solution.
Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2008). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Glover, J., Friedman, H., & Jones, G. (2002). Adaptive leadership: When change is not enough (part one). Organization Development Journal, 20(2), 15-32.
Glover, J., Rainwater, K., Jones, G., & Friedman, H. (2002). Adaptive leadership (part two): Four principles of being adaptive. Organization Development Journal,Chesterland, 20(4), 18-38.
Hall, E. (1976). Beyond Culture. New York, NY: Anchor Books.
Heifitz, R. A., & Linsky, M. (2002). Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Patton, M. Q. (2007). Deepening Extension’s Knowledge Base. New York, NY: National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.