We all tend to fit one of seven types of change leader, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. The seventh and final change leader type is the Adapter, who relies equally on all three.

Adapters exist at the crossroads between Head, Heart, and Hands. They have a uniform score on all three dimensions. They can easily employ all three—each as it is needed—without being committed to one; and they relate well to others. But Adapters’ impact as change leaders may actually be lessened because of their lack of a preference for one type. While the capacity to flex one’s approach is generally an asset, at times others can find it difficult to relate to Adapters because of their changeability.

If you are an Adapter, because you are naturally skilled at utilizing all the tools in the change leader toolkit, you connect with a wide variety of stakeholders in the change process and are comfortable experimenting with creative ways to move the process forward. You excel at flexibility, inventiveness, and teamwork.

But people may find you hard to read because of your lack of a dominant change leadership style, and you may sometimes struggle with which path to pursue because of your versatility. Your genuine adaptability coupled with your desire to be part of the group can sometimes cause you to focus too much on compromise—at the expense of advocating for tough stances, at least in the short term. You’re also adept at promoting change behind the scenes, but you would do well to ensure that such behavior is perceived positively by others and not as divisive scheming.

As an Adapter, you excel as a leader because you often:

  • Like to be personally involved and engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders in the change process—you are a very active and vocal change leader
  • Are curious about what others think and feel, are open-minded, and consider the input of others
  • Enjoy playing the role of a devil’s advocate and challenging group assumptions or plans
  • Like to experiment with different ways of doing things, thereby exhibiting flexibility and a willingness to adapt as you learn through the change process
  • Show others that you are willing to compromise in order to overcome resistance or to convince others to take the first step in a new direction

Despite all this, your strengths come with a few shortfalls. Adapters also sometimes:

  • Can be so flexible that it can be difficult for you to determine which behaviors to deploy to reach your goals
  • May at times value reaching an agreement above making a less-popular decision that makes better business sense (at least in the short term)
  • Can be perceived as going around the chain of command when you work “behind the scenes” to achieve your objectives
  • Can become bored by routine and tempted to stir things up to alleviate monotony
  • Can be rigid or inflexible under pressure or when stressed

So while your flexibility as an Adapter can open you up to experimentation and interactivity, you can also be unpredictable and inconsistent. When you have a full understanding of these facets of your leadership style, you can go about maximizing the good and minimizing the weak spots.

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