The ability to adapt to change is essential

Published on December 4, 2011 on

Leaders need to constantly adapt to help their organisations to survive, says Ghaleb Darabya, the managing director of Cambridge Leadership Associates Middle East. He spoke about the topic at a recent event organised by Stanton Chase, and describes the necessary skills.


q What is adaptive leadership about?

a It is really to help a social system – be it a group of people, an organisation or a family for that matter – to face a tough challenge, which is keeping them where they are today and not progressing. We live in a very crazy world where the pace of change is so tremendous. We need to adapt to new realities all the time, so the greater your adaptive capacity is the more likely it is that you will thrive.

q What skills are needed in adaptive leadership?

a It is important to be able to diagnose the situation really well, so your diagnostic skills have to be close to perfect. Where is the problem? What is in the heart of the challenge that we are facing? It is how to develop a capacity of people to deal with this adaptation. That also becomes an important skill. It’s not about you anymore, raising the flag or being the hero. It’s about how to help those people deal with the adaptation and enhance their capacity.

q Any others?

a An important skill is how to orchestrate conflict, not just give solutions to people, but how to help people see the tough reality. Whenever we’re dealing with adaptation or a tough challenge, people tend to avoid it. So how do you really draw their attention to this part? So the art of communication is extremely important.

q How have you adapted in your career?

a I have always worked with public sector and government, so one year ago I decided to try this by myself and left a fancy job working for the Dubai Government and decided to run my own experiment in splitting this literature with as many people as possible. I’m still in the experimental phase. I have always been part of a big ship but now I am my own little boat, so it’s a different mindset.

q Emiratisation is often seen as one of the biggest challenges facing the UAE. How do leaders best manage it?

a I think Emiratisation is one of the classic adaptive leadership or adaptive challenges that faces … the UAE in general. Part of the challenge is technical and will require the care of the Government, but also a good portion of it is adaptive, because you have to have a long-term strategy across the Government, the private sector, the civil society, social system in the UAE where you can come up with a comprehensive strategy looking into the future. How do you want to grow the next generation? That is the real work. It is not about today, what needs to be done. It is starting in the school, the family and in the mosques. It is a whole complex network that you need to mobilise to deal with this challenge.