Adaptive challenge sits outside the norms of critical thinking as the rules are often blurry and the path forward unknown.
Beyond a simple strategic process, adaptive challenge is a critical tool in current leadership as we adapt models beyond the master of all principle. We move into collaborative problem solving, where the uncertainty of outcome is evident.
You may challenge that much of the leadership journey is, in fact, uncertain, but not all leaders have the capability to embrace the uncertainty. But what we see in adaptive challenge are a series of instances that we may not have encountered:
This principle outlines the differences between management and leadership in that a manager manages a process, and a leader inspires and leads a vision. Adaptive challenge talks to the ability of a leader to think beyond the technical reality of the situation. You could say that context and emotional intelligence are at play here.
For example, an employee may be struggling with their workload; the default response is that they are not capable or overworked. Yet, the adaptive challenge would explore other areas of thinking that might present an answer.
They may have challenges at home that consume their thinking and emotions. Therefore, focusing on the volume of work by reducing it or putting in new systems to streamline their workflow is not addressing the root cause of the problem.
As a leader, you need to develop the skills and critical thinking that sit beyond the perceived challenge and explores the unknown through critical inquiry. The ability to explore concepts and circumstances that may not be linear or even illogical will create a path to understanding.
In this example, the challenges in their personal lives are not challenges that you can necessarily provide an answer for or even give guidance. Giving them time off may create further stress in that environment; ignoring it makes a gap between you are your employee, and they may feel that you don’t care. So, you see, no clear solution because it’s not your relationship.
Some of the approaches may provide an open door for times when they are in a challenged state and develop their working environment to be productive and build self-worth with no further pressure. You may source and support services that can provide external support over a prolonged period, all of which offer a long term, potentially failure riddled journey that is not time-bound and likeliness of success unknown and out of your control.