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The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World
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The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  759 ratings  ·  52 reviews
A hands-on, practical guide, "Practice of Adaptive Leadership" contains stories, tools, diagrams, cases, and worksheets to help managers develop their skills as leaders who are able to take people outside their comfort zones and address the toughest challenges.
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published April 14th 2009 by Harvard Business School Press
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4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  759 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
It is hard to know what to say about this book. I took on a new position in January, and the other new assistant director and I have been reading this (along with the library director), periodically discussing it at our meetings. It has been great for that, but I haven't been ready to hear some of the ideas, and some of them aren't quite appropriate. This is a book I will keep, and consult from time to time.

The only chapter I really balked at was the "Inspire" chapter. I'm just not sure every pe
Fred Leland
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found this book this past year as I was part of a steering committee put together to develop emergency first responders. Cops responding to crisis to be specific who need to be flexible of thought. I have taught and even written on adaptability myself but this book had a great way of explaining what adaptability was and how to implement it in an organization. it took into account things I had experienced first hand such as the resistance to the idea of developing adaptable cultures capable of ...more
Aug 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: leadership
I think I was looking for more of an update and deeper dive into the content of "Leadership On the Line." instead it felt like they pulled back from the core of the individual in the larger system and lost the attention to purpose and values or and their quality of analysis. Less from the heart and the gut, more from the head. Still quite useful though.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I pretty gave up on the leadership genre of books several years back. I've picked up a few having to do with leadership in the missional church in recent years but found those to basically be more of the same. So,"The Practice of Adaptive Leadership," which was assigned reading for a class, was not a book I would have otherwise picked up to read. There is a lesson to be learned somewhere in there as this might be the best thing I've ever read on Leadership. The authors view leadership as the nec ...more
Alyssa Foll
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best leadership book that I have read. "The Practice of Adaptive Leadership" is about leading change, but how to do so in leading others through loss and how to lead yourself. It's one of the first leadership books that I have come across that made sense, intuitively, to me.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is leading in their organizations, schools, churches, or communities.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book would be amazing if it went to the depth of inquiry necessary. You read a section, and are left just wanting more, but not in a good way like a solid novel. Instead, you being to understand the topic the authors are getting at, and are ready for more, and the chapter ends. Very unexpected, and not very useful.
Rebecca Fenerty
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Overall, good leadership resource. Very specific tools and techniques related to adaptive challenges within the workplace. Not an introductory resource for new leaders necessarily, but excellent for someone who is getting ready to tackle a major change/shift within an organization.
Ichinkhorloo Khosbayar
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Change doesn't come easily. In order to change people around you, your community and the world, you should adapt the leadership. I really enjoyed reading it and the message I got is that you have to have that willing to be changed.
I think I'll reread when I become a part of any organization.
Danielle Baranowski
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Meh. If you've never, ever read a book about leadership, this might be interesting, but it's mostly repetition of things that have been said better elsewhere. tl;dr: be flexible, build relationships, keep learning, question everything.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I use lessons from it every day in my leadership training.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd have liked this book better had I worked in a larger organization and that it's shorter. The book's illustration is not inspiring.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a good one to keep on the shelf and refer back to.
Shane Orr
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was really looking forward to this book, but there was a lot more "what" than "how" and much of the "what" was intuitive.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book about leadership. This book or something similar should be required reading for all human beings...
Dec 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
This read like a self-published book. It seemed they took transformational leadership and repackaged it into adaptive leadership.
Rachael Mackie
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This was required reading for a leadership class so not one I chose. The concepts made sense, but it was boring to read and I found myself skimming to get to the end.
Amy Constant
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Even though I read it for a class, I really enjoyed the concepts and theories.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Presbyterian Ministers
It feels more like a workbook than I had imagined. The table of contents is essentially a three-level outline. Each chapter is clearly organized with headers and bullet points, with crisply written sidebar case studies and exercises. The opening chapter encourages workbook-like uses, saying that in addition to reading the text from start to finish, readers can browse for “concepts and tools most useful for understanding or deal with the particular adaptive challenge you are facing.”

If you’re lo
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: rm
Two very useful things from this book, for me, were the separating out technical problems from adaptive challenges (and how important it is not to use strategies for solving the first for solving the second) and the idea of creating holding environments and embracing silence. Additionally, the notion of "getting on the balcony" (to remove yourself from the immediate action in order to gain perspective and/or clarity) was useful. This, in conjunction with Senge's Fifth Discipline, are a strong ca ...more
Oct 10, 2015 rated it liked it
The ideas in this book are solid, and if you have not been exposed to the concepts of adaptive leadership, I highly recommend this. However, I gave this 3 stars because it felt a bit boring to read as a book. This is more of a resource for a professional book club.

Having experienced adaptive leadership ideas via experiential learning methods thanks to Coro NY, I know that this is good stuff -- but reading this as a book is not so exciting. Viewed as an accompaniment to professional goal-setting
Joseph Mathews
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book a lot. A bit of it was more of a rehash of Leadership Without Easy Answers than I would have liked, but the implementation was great. I will need to reread this when I am in the field and not in the classroom. For the purposes of assigned class reading I skipped many of the exercises available because I did not find them applicable. I suspect, however, that I will return to this book many times.
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
As in Leadership on the Line (by Linsky and Heifetz) the authors discuss a theory of leadership for change situations. THis book adds a very useful "how To" componenbt, suggesting exercises to practice the various components of their theory ("Observe; interpret; intervene.")and providing brief "case study" style examples along the way. THe writing style is generally concrete and easy to read. On the whole, I found it quite useful.
Maureen Moriarty
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the better business books I've read in many years. Practical solid framework to help leaders manage the difficult side of change - getting humans to change hearts/minds/habits and alliances. No easy task! I appreciate the approach of the book broken down with "balcony" view activities and "on the field" activities. Most activities are self reflective in nature but likely the most important if one is to lead from self in a way that inspires/persuades others.
Brian Eshleman
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Realistic treatment of what to expect when being a part of change in an organization. Quotes and illustrations are good, but reviewing a couple of months later I can't remember any jaw-dropping or eye-opening insights. I gave it four stars at the time, so some of its influence must fade after a little while. This is why I read LITERATURE and remain open to practical, timely implications of it rather than boiled-down how-to material.
Jan 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
Useful in conversations and trainings with others already schooled in adaptive leadership, the language will be a barrier to those who haven't already learned about the principles and practices in this team's previous books. Still, an important reference and depth development guide for those committed to the practice.
Sep 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Read this for a work project on leadership books.

This one is probably the best I've read so far. It is in-depth and somehow drives home the points while not being obnoxiously repetitive. The activities at the end of the chapters are the best I've seen - effective, not childish, questions I'd be likely to actually put some effort into.
Dec 04, 2011 rated it liked it
There's a little more content to this book than some books about the nature of effective leadership. The main premise is that a leader needs to stay committed to her mission of doing what is right for the organization while, at the same time, navigating flexibly based on ever-changing circumstances.
Jan 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: textbooks
This book was a required material for a course. It is a relatively easy read and is organized in such a way that it can be useful for quick reference. Though textbooks are not usually interesting enough to want to keep this one seems like it could be beneficial if read more than once. There is a great deal of material in this book that leads to reflection and goal setting.
Jonathan Larssen
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A classic work that provides a comprehensive model of leadership that is appropriate for any situation because it helps leaders make the best decision by rising above the fray and seeing things through the lens of multiple narratives.
Calvin Sun
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
The problems churches face today requires leaders that can face complex and adaptive challenges. This book presents practical toolsets for leaders to endure and lead such changes. Pastors and Lay-leaders should take notes here!
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“Your behavior reflects your actual purposes.” 40 likes
“What people resist is not change per se, but loss.” 30 likes
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