Adaptive Leadership: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Strong Leadership
  • 0:40 Who Is an Adaptive Leader?
  • 1:22 Example
  • 2:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson is first going to go over what an adaptive leader is as well as discuss some of his or her traits. Then, we'll go over some of these many traits in action using specific examples.

Strong Leadership

Not that long ago, it was believed that strong authoritarian styles of management were proper. Fear and intimidation ruled in many companies. Things have changed. Now, authoritarian leaders are seen as weak in many ways. Strong leaders are those that don't have to intimidate their staff to get things done and are strong enough to hear a contrary opinion and use it to their advantage.

One type of leadership style that exemplifies this kind of leadership is known as adaptive leadership. In this lesson, we'll learn about what it is and see an example of what it may look like in practice.

Who Is an Adaptive Leader?

An adaptive leader is a dynamic individual who's able to acclimate to a changing environment. This means they're able to work with new team members as well as old ones. Adaptive leaders are able to face new challenges and either take them in stride or respond to them in novel ways, as the case may necessitate.

Furthermore, adaptive leaders are able to plan ahead of time for a change in their environment. In other words, they aren't just reactive, they're also proactive individuals. Moreover, adaptive leaders know when to delegate their authority to someone else. They aren't afraid of temporarily giving up some of their authority so long as it's necessary and helps the team or company deal with a novel situation.


Let's showcase an example of adaptive leadership. We'll say Mr. Gold is an executive at Gold Acme, Inc. He's sitting in his office and Cheryl, the CEO, pops in. Cheryl is the type of person who loves to chat about personal things before getting down to business. Mr. Gold is all game, and he can do that for her.

After Cheryl leaves, Mr. Gold has a meeting with a client of his. The client could care less about anything other than the task at hand. Mr. Gold knows this and adapts to his client's pure business-like attitude.

So, adapting to individual needs is a key principle of adaptive leadership.

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