The Paradox of Adaptive Leadership

The Paradox of Adaptive Leadership:

Are You Clinging to Perfection or Embracing the SPARK?

In a world of over-saturation, created by the ability to have access information immediately through the internet, what sets a business apart is its soul, articulated through its leadership. Yet, few people have the skill-set to embrace and acknowledge challenges, vulnerably and transparently communicating emotions while integrating action that aligns with values.

An executive I was coaching was stunned when I shared that two things can be true at the same time— you can be an expert and a learner, you can have a relationship and still manage employees.

After I shared that, she looked at me with wide eyes and said, “but I’ve never experienced or seen a leader who does that well. How do I know where to start?”

Culturally, we are ingrained with the narrative that vulnerability is a weakness.

Instead, we are driven to perfectionism, and we aim to appear as free as possible from all flaws and defects. Many of us are taught this from childhood. It becomes a mental construct that shapes our narratives about ourselves and others.

A new leadership is emerging now, leading with authenticity, emotional intelligence, and cultural consciousness.

These leaders embrace the paradox of leadership, holding space for both:

  • Humility and conviction,
  • Passion with stress-free authority,
  • Active engagement while being present to the process and allowing it to evolve organically,
  • Curiosity with certainty in their ability to do the job,
  • Self-awareness and unattachment
  • Optimism and hope for the future with a realistic and informed perspective  
  • Resistance (to any oppressive, hurtful, harmful practices) and persistence in making a difference
  • bravery and sensitivity
  • consciousness and vulnerability, ready to face the unknown head-on
  • groundedness in both their own and their teams strengths with openness to learning about necessary areas of growth.

Leading this way is complex and nuanced, as you can imagine. This is exactly what adaptive, inclusive leadership is all about.

To answer my clients question of where to begin, we start with self-reflection in both our head and heart.

Shifting to this is not necessarily intuitive, easy when unsupported, or fostered by the dominant culture. However, not only is it possible, it is very rewarding and impactful for our communities.  

That’s why I have designed and created S.P.A.R.K. Leadership programs.   

This journey involves interrupting patterns and confronting incongruences, which shakes us from our comfort zone.

Take a moment to reflect upon and answer these questions:

  • Do you know how to navigate complex, nuanced dynamics when they emerge under distress?
  • Are you actively building, strengthening, and sustaining positive relationships with all stakeholders of different  backgrounds and cultures than yourself?
  • Do you currently have the knowledge, skills, and habits to be engaged in this new leadership model?
  • Do you take time daily (or even weekly or monthly) to reflect on your core values, vision, and priorities to have maximal and strategic impact?
  • Are you familiar with the latest neuroscience trends and adaptive leadership research and approaches in order to lead with more impact?
  • Are you crystal clear about what each of the five attributes of S.P.A.R.K. look like on a consistent basis?

If you answered no to any of those questions, consider joining our leadership retreat (we have one on September 16, 2017!), check out our upcoming 8 week online course for leaders OR click here to schedule a “clarity call” where we can discuss your personal needs on the journey, and identify what you need clarity around in order to become the adaptive, inclusive leader you want to be.

I’ll close by saying this:

Inclusion starts with I, and also contains the word US within it. Your team needs you to provide the quality of leadership that allows everyone to thrive, and it all starts with taking the first step, and embracing the paradox.


Rachel Rosen is a seasoned facilitator, leadership coach, Racial Justice and LGBTQ advocate, and the Founder of S.P.A.R.K. For Humanity, the interactive, inclusive, community-building card game. All S.P.A.R.K. offerings sit at the nexus of Rachel’s personal and professional passions, and she is on a mission to bring more empathy to the world, one conversation at a time. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadershipcoaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice. Rachel facilitates workshops and offers adaptive leadership coaching opportunities that support individuals and teams to unleash their potential to ignite inclusive cultures, collaborate, and lead with intentionality–all in service of building a better future for the next generation.

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