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Published on: Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Adaptability Becoming an Even Better Predictor of Executive Success

Posted By: Joseph Daniel McCool
Filed Under: leadership, joseph daniel mccool, business success, adaptability


Over the past four years, nearly every company has had to confront the challenge of change in all its forms. From the need to shift to a new business model, serving new customers, doing more with less and getting creative when it comes to meeting financial commitments, the sheer pace and scale of change has been daunting.

Whether structural or cosmetic in nature, change has forced companies to work smarter and more efficiently than ever before and pushed them to build collaboration and innovation into their cultures.

But change, or adaptability to it, is equally rising to the point of a mandate for executive business leaders.

Executives are hungering for solutions in an uncertain and rapidly changing world, and to satiate it, they're working to close knowledge gaps and expand their networking with peers who already rate as professional confidants and those who should.

The pursuit of business and careers, therefore, really comes down to a search for change from the inside out. That is, executives know they'll continue to be intellectually stretched by the complex, global business challenges that are already emerging, and they will still be pulled in myriad directions by competing interests even after the economic downturn is put indisputably behind us.

Knowing when an environment is closing in around you, or your business model, is important. Seeing what's possible through new eyes and with a focus on new ideas is key. And sensing when a team of talented individuals is facing needless obstacles is also part of what's needed from business leaders in times like these.

There are many sought after skills in top executive leaders, but perhaps chief among them should be the perspective, self-awareness and confidence to know when and how to use them when answers and data are lacking and members of the team are looking to you for sound judgment and inspiring example.

Maybe leadership for today's organizations can be summed up in this: Knowing when to change your approach, adapt your communication style and your engagement with customers, and opening your mind to a new operating environment, yet also knowing your principals and holding firm to them no matter the shifting of business conditions.

Adaptability can be a source of strength, but as with so many things in work and life, perhaps too much of it can weaken an enterprise and a career.

If you found this article helpful, leave a comment and also share it with others.

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Joseph Daniel McCool's avatarJoseph Daniel McCool
Joseph Daniel McCool is senior contributing editor with ExecuNet and principal of management recruiting/succession advisory firm The McCool Group. He is also the author of Deciding Who Leads: How Executive Recruiters Drive, Direct & Disrupt the Global Search for Leadership Talent, recognized widely as "one of the best business books of 2008," and its Brazilian Portuguese translation, Escolhendo Líderes, published in June 2010.

Posted by Giles Newman
05/06 @ 06:23 PM
Great article, gets straight to an important point. I agree that too much adaptability can be weakening, knowing where the tipping point will be at any given time is perhaps a core measure of the awareness that we all need to develop. Easy in theory, hard in practice unless we learn to try it and accept occassional failure, which is doubly hard in a challenging economy.
Posted by Ed Parr
05/04 @ 06:46 PM
ADAPTABILITY is a "critical" aptitude for leaders at any level of the organization. However, adaptability is just one of the Sublime Nine Management Aptitudes = Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Linguistic, Analytical, Inductive, Visionary, Mathematical, Clerical, Adaptable. Specifically, ADAPTABILITY is the capacity for responding to change in a positive and effective manner; a talent for adjusting quickly to changing conditions. For examples of how a manager uses his or her adaptability within the enterprise, see my book “Natural Born Manager,” pg. 79. You will also find there an extensive discussion on HOW TO identify recruits who possess the Sublime Nine aptitudes. Also, check out my FREE managerial tools, including my extremely popular “Manager-Supervisor Rating Tool,” from my Linkedin BOX folder on my Profile at (
Cheers, Ed
Posted by Wendell Law
05/04 @ 03:57 PM
The last paragraph said it all. I often see older generation executives fight to resist change and younger generation executives putting change on the fast track. There are certain core values that made the company successful as it is that can be built upon the keep the company growing in a rapidly changing environment.
Posted by Steve Vosmi
05/04 @ 02:25 PM
I believe this article hits the mark and reviews issues and challenges facing our ever changing business climate. The ability to embrace change and keeping an open mind to industry trends and then execute accordingly is what business is all about today.

Great article!
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Finding new ways to do business is always a challenge, but for success in an ever-changing world, business leaders today must be willing to try new things and remain extremely flexible. Read what some of the world's greatest innovators had to say in this ExecuNet exclusive.

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