Do You Have These 4 Traits of a Modern, Adaptable Leader?

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Leaders are being asked to lead people and companies in ways that keep up with the world’s rapid pace of change. If you’re unable to adapt, you may miss out on developing a competitive edge that helps your organization thrive. As the workplace continues to evolve, what traits or qualities can help you become more adaptive and agile? See if you match up with the four common traits we see from modern, adaptable leaders: 


1) A Beginner’s Mindset


“In the mind of the expert there are very few possibilities, but in the Beginner’s Mind there are infinite possibilities because we come to it fresh. So it is a kind of a discipline to try to bring Beginners Mind to every aspect of life and not be so stuck in our ideas and opinions.”          - Jon Kabat-Zinn


As a business leader or leader of anything, you’re inundated with solutions from all sides. Whether it’s about investing in a new employee engagement survey or figuring out how to create more productivity, your mind can get cluttered and cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture. As a common practice in mindfulness, adopting a beginner’s mindset will help you engage in more innovative decision-making. By removing negative thoughts and emotions from the possibilities laid in front of you, you can make the best choices that are aligned with your business and people strategy. 


As a consequence of being surrounded by other organization leaders, some of the best and most obvious solutions become shrouded by our own biases and opinions. Next time you have a problem to solve or a challenge to examine, try pretending you are an outsider and a beginner to this situation. 


For example, maybe the challenge is to create a loyal, returning customer base. To fully understand the customer experience, you have to adopt a beginner’s mindset as if you were a new customer. Through this mental shift, you can most likely determine areas in the customer journey that your company can use to WOW or surprise and delight them. 


2) Empathy, Emotional Intelligence 


It’s rare nowadays to elevate an employee to a leadership position just because they’re a technical expert - they have to have people skills too! Essential soft skills revolve around emotional intelligence [EQ] and expressing empathy.


Leaders are asked to pull their teams together and drive them forward, no matter how different employees might be from one another. It’s not an easy task! EQ acts as a support tool in creating a sense of connectedness between a leader and their teams. EQ makes you a leader that people want to work for, follow, and trust. 

Theodore Roosevelt care empathy leadership quote

In a recent email from Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, he cited that of the employees surveyed in their list of the World’s Best Workplaces, about 9 in 10 people are having a great experience and their levels of trust in the workplace and pride in their work have risen over the past nine years.


Trust is a direct result of having the emotional intelligence to build teams equipped with psychological and emotional safety. Just named the #1 World’s Best Workplace, Cisco scored high on trust with 87% of employees reported feeling emotionally and psychologically safe while at work.


3) Optimism [it’s not just about having a smile]


Being optimistic almost has a negative connotation to it. Society generally considers optimists to be naive, unrealistic, and with a fluffy outlook on life. Take on a beginner’s mindset and rethink optimism as hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.


At one point or another we’ve gotten or given advice to “speak what you want into existence.” Or maybe you’re well acquainted with the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy, where a prediction comes true simply because you believe it will. Optimism works in a similar way and the hopefulness that comes with it helps us endure challenges that would have otherwise turned us away. If you follow a leader who is not optimistic about their decisions or the future, would you feel confident about the company’s fate? Probably not. 


Here are a few ideas to help you be more optimistic at work: 

  • Practice gratitude 
  • Celebrate wins [use the 'lil wins' activity from our productivity ebook]
  • Look for opportunities to build people up
  • When negative thoughts come up, consciously ditch them


Optimism is one of the five Happiness Habits, dive into the rest with a Coaches' Tips video from coachsultant Jess. 


4) Awareness Beyond “ME”


Self-awareness is always good to have but having awareness of your extended impact on others is crucial to leadership. Leaders should operate knowing fully that their decisions aren’t just affecting the self or ME-level of impact but also the team/organization, WE-level. In other companies you have worked for, can you think of some times that leaders made decisions that overlooked their employees? Maybe it was a process change that actually made things less efficient or a policy that created more divisiveness than inclusion. 


Delivering Happiness Me, We, Community dh blueprint model

Leaders who are only concerned with themselves and their reputation aren’t as adaptable to change because their scope of decision-making is limited. As the world continues to rapidly change from technology and social innovation, leaders have to broaden their awareness to better prepare their businesses for the future. 


More and more executives are opening up about how much their roles impact the lives of their employees as well. It’s less about leading a company, but about leading their people to opportunities for more development, more fulfillment, and more happiness. 


Become a more adaptive leader by learning how to move your organization from surviving to thriving with our downloadable ebook: 




About the Author

Briana Krueger

Bri is the Impact Storyteller on the Delivering Happiness team. Working previously as a freelancer, her goal has always been to work with passionate people who are focused on helping individuals and businesses find their purpose. As part of DH, she now gets to accomplish that every day. Bri resides in Arizona and is lucky enough to enjoy the sun all year round.


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