Adaptability In Leadership

July 30, 2013

I love Twitter and last year I wrote a tweet that said “A Great Leader is a Calm in a Storm and a Storm in a Calm”. My message was to highlight the importance of adaptability in leadership.

If you think about it, adaptability in leadership applies in many aspects of life, not just business. Sports captains and managers, teachers, religious and political figures all need to adapt their style and message to the exact circumstances that they face at any given time. If you are the Captain of a football team 3-0 down at half time in the FA Cup Final at Wembley, your ‘team talk’ message will be totally different to the one if you were winning 3-0!

During WWII Churchill made a number of significantly different speeches, some were designed to reassure, while others sought to energise and motivate the population in seemingly hopeless situations.

I will never forget the haunting sight of the space shuttle Challenger as it broke apart and exploded 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members (January 28, 1986). The address to the nation by Ronald Reagan that day was moving and sad but also highly inspirational. It sent a clear message to the American people and the entire World that USA space exploration would continue and he likened the challenge to that faced by the great Ocean Explorers of the past.

My top tips for writing a key team meeting talk are as follows:

  • Use an appropriate story (personal, current affairs or historical) to draw a parallel with what you want the team to achieve.
  • Depending on the state of the market or the team’s performance, choose to be the ‘calm in the storm’ OR the ‘storm in a calm’.
  • Keep it short and finish with the “key message” you want them to take away.
  • Rehearse until you know the story, that way you won’t need a script!
  • DON’T USE POWERPOINT but do use props or pictures
  • Avoid the feedback sandwich (a layer of good performance, followed by criticism, followed by good!) as it confuses people.
  • Get ‘them’ involved and engaged in your talk by asking questions.

Choose the time for your team meeting carefully. Avoid very first thing in the morning to allow people to settle in and check email. Also avoid straight after lunch and last thing in the afternoon. I find the best time for a quick rallying meeting is 9.45 sharp! It should last no more than 15 minutes!

Whether you are ‘calming’ or ‘storming’ be great at it!

Many thanks

Stuart Allen

Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

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