Devolving decision making is another key element of Adaptive Leadership. At its core, devolved decision making is about recognising that you and your trusted inner circle of advisers don’t have all the answers and so you must trust your people to come up with the answers.

To coin a phrase from Heifetz et al, authors of The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, it’s about “micro adaptation”. It’s lots of people adapting lots of ways and often. This needs to occur at the level of the individual, team and business unit level.

You also need to acknowledge the independence of your people in their homes right now. And allow them that independence and give them the trust to do the right thing, while they are home schooling, caring for the elderly or disabled or dealing with the troubles that will arise from home isolation with others.

While you are giving your teams their independence, it is vitally important that you also consider the interdependence that exists across your organisation. While an individual or a team or business unit may be given the authority to experiment and make decisions, who do they need to communicate that decision to? Who might be affected? Who could benefit if only they knew?

This leads on nicely to the three questions of Adaptive Leadership:

          1. What?

          2. Who?

          3. When?

The first question is: ‘what are the things we need to be courageous about and experiment on?’ What are the sacred cows we are going to challenge? Whatever you think was a line you couldn’t cross before… re-think the need for it or re-think how you can cross the line without any unwanted collateral damage.

The next question is: ‘who are you going to devolve responsibility to in terms of experimentation?’ Team leaders, individuals?

And lastly: ‘when?’ When are you going to allow your teams to be courageous in their own right and do the experiments that you know can make a difference in these tough times.

Stay safe and adapt - quickly.


Bryan's new book teaches you practical methods to cut through with your advice and make the impact you want to make. Available on Amazon or order here now.


Available on Amazon or order here now.

Bryan Whitefield works with strategic leaders across all sectors to help organisations harness uncertainty – uncertainty is the strategic leader’s best friend. He is the author of DECIDE: How to Manage the Risk in Your Decision Making and Winning Conversations: How to turn red tape into blue ribbon. He is the designer of the Risk Culture: Build Your Tribe of Advocates Program for support functions and the Persuasive Adviser Program for internal advisers. Both can be booked individually or in-house. For more information about Bryan, please click here.

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