ADAPTABILITY: The Trait That Creates a Successful Leader


There is a multitude of characteristics that signal a good leader. They are motivators and innovators. They work well with people, are decisive, and are able to promote change with adaptability. In the world today, adaptability is a trait that separates a successful leader from an unsuccessful one. With the way technology is fast developing, leaders need to be able to adapt to keep up.

Adapting to change is not only an important life skill, but it is also an important trait of leadership. As a leader, you not only steer change, you need to respond to it as well. Your adaptability is also what will allow your team to face and adapt to change.

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”
H.G. Wells

Leaders must adapt to succeed

Change is inevitable. In business, you will encounter new competition, new cultures, new jobs, and new markets. Your willingness to adapt and to get out of your comfort zone marks a key difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders.

Adaptability is what pushes processes to improve and people to grow.

What is adaptability?

It is more than merely coping or “going with the flow”. It is being able to create strategies that deal with the unknown. It is being able to adjust behaviors to accommodate new situations and challenges.

An inflexible leader can deal a lot of damage. It can extinguish employee enthusiasm, cooperation, and even creativity. Everyone in your organization has different ideas. You need to accommodate those ideas into your plans or strategies to make it easier to effectively run your organization. This will also help keep them happy and satisfied with their work.

Skills that aid adaptability

  • Analytical skills: Being able to study the environment to see the areas of improvement and opportunities for growth
  • Relational & empathetic skills: Understanding that trust is necessary to allow room for change. When your employees trust you, they will support your vision during changes. In the same way, when you trust them to do their job, they will deliver. Fostering an environment of care and culture is something very important.
  • Decisiveness: The ability to make decisions quickly makes it easier to respond to change.

How to improve adaptability

  • Know thyself: Strange as it may be, knowing and understanding how you react to change will let you know where you need to improve. Be clear and honest about your own emotions and what you think about change. This will help you properly communicate it to others.
  • Be observant of yourself: Try to catch yourself when you begin shooting down ideas and suggestions. You have to challenge yourself to catch these moments and keep an open mind.

  • Have an open mind: Don’t say no right away. Learn to accept that there will always be different views so you space to be adaptable. Don’t get attached to one plan or a single strategy; there will always be other ways of approaching things. Having a plan B or C, all the way to Z will allow you to manage change.
  • Think forward: Often times, when we’ve stayed in a position for so long, you become used to the “norm” and the “status quo” that your thinking starts getting boxed in. This is mostly unintentional. But you need to challenge the process to grow and improve. You will learn that adaptability is what will challenge traditional processes and push you to grow and improve.
    Reflect on this: if you were to leave tomorrow, what do you think your successor would do? Then consider implementing those changes yourself.

  • Explore the world: Be curious, ask questions, look at all angles before you decide.

  • Immerse yourself: The best way to practice adaptability is to immerse yourself in new environments and new situations. Staying in your comfort zone will get you used to the idea of a singular way of approaching situations. But exploring the vast and varied world will teach you how to be more open-minded. Try new things and meet new people on a regular basis and you’ll be well on your way to practicing adaptability.

  • Practice: The best way to improve adaptability is through practice. And yes, it is something you can practice. Just do everything mentioned above! Remember that as a leader, your job is to lead. Listen actively and allow your team to give their input and actually consider them. You and your team need to be flexible enough to make changes or incorporate others’ ideas to make changes as you go.


Lyn Balanza

Lyn Balanza

Content Manager at Recruitday. Creating for the digital world.