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Adaptive Leadership: A Model for Meeting the Most Difficult Challenges

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Date Developed: 1/1/2011. Source: Maternal & Child Health Public Health Leadership Institute. Presenter(s): David Steffen, PhD, Claudia Fernandez, PhD. Type: Slide Presentation. Level: Intermediate. Length: 24 minutes.


This 24-minute presentation introduces the topic of adaptive leadership for facing complex problems associated with innovation, change, and/or a paradigm shift. The presentation discusses how adaptive leaders use a social leadership style, engaging in more relational dialogue, in order to wholistically frame issues. Adaptive leaders will adapt perspective to understand the others at the table better, understand the situation better and to help create a plausible leadership. The presenters explain why multiple stakeholders and real risk must be balanced with reward. The three types of problems – and tools for their solutions – that arise in adaptive leadership (technical, mixed, adaptive) are also discussed. When leaders are faced with the most complex challenges they need to bring the tools of adaptive leadership to bear.

Learning Objectives

• Understand the need for new adaptive leadership.

• Learn leadership levels and associated tasks.

• Describe the challenges associated with adaptive leadership.

• Understand the model of adaptive learning.

Special Instructions

To access this learning opportunity, scroll down on the landing page to “Cultural Competence and Global Leadership” leadership module and click on “View Module Presentation.” No audio. Requires Flash in your web browser.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UE8MC25742; MCH Navigator for $225,000/year. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.