Leaders Know How to be Socially Adaptable

Gerwig 2015-10-16

Here in Southern New England, it’s Fall. The leaves are a beautiful kaleidoscope of red, orange, yellow, and green. The air is crisp. The skies are bright blue. College football dominates Saturday afternoons. Pumpkins and apples have been harvested. And nearly every home sports a planter or two of mums (we have six). And the baseball post-season is underway. Soon, winter will come bringing cold temperatures and snow along with short daylight hours and early evening fires. But for now, it’s Fall. And it’s probably my favorite season.

We recently experienced our first New England apple festival. There were (and still are) apples everywhere. Apple cider doughnuts, apple cider, apple turnovers, apple pies, apple fritters, and so on. We’re fortunate to live near markets for two great farms, Lewis and Rogers. People come from miles around to get a fresh apple cider doughnut and cup of apple cider. And I have to be honest, they’re really good. In addition to apples, you can find mums, pumpkins, corn, stuffed breads, peach butter, and any number of farm produce. Would I drive two hours from New York City to partake? Well, maybe. Okay, probably.

While both Lewis and Rogers are worthy Fall destinations, neither is formal. These are small to mid-size farmer’s markets that cater to ordinary people. The staff is friendly and the clientele are most locals, neighbors. They chat informally over a hot cup of coffee and an apple pastry. They stop to grab a dozen apple cider doughnuts for the office. They wear jeans, khakis, and t-shirts. There may even be the occasional professional who comes in her suit. But regardless, these markets are down-home places. They’re not pretentious by any stretch of the imagination.

These are my kind of places: hole-in-the-wall, unique, and local. But I also like upscale on occasion, wear-a-coat-and-tie make-a-reservation types of places. Often, you don’t have to select between two options. You can choose both. Country or rock? Yes. Sweet or sour? Yes. Function or fashion? Yes. Head or heart? Yes.

What I have observed is that world-class leaders often make multiple selections when given a choice. They are “both and” leaders. And when they’re “out and about,” they have the ability to demonstrate social adaptability. They are confident in a multitude of situations. They recognize the importance of social adaptability and confidently demonstrate grace and manners in a variety of situations. These world-class leaders are comfortable in the boardroom and on the shop floor. They can walk into a BBQ joint in Memphis, a deli in New York City, a boardroom in Sydney, or an office in Hong Kong and handle conversations comfortably. These leaders can easily talk with a janitor, CEO, university student, or famous athlete, even within minutes of the previous conversation. They can switch gears quickly but they remain true to their values and behave without compromise. They’re socially adaptable while being uncompromising in their core beliefs. They adapt to the situation and audience without behaving unethically.

How about you? Are you comfortable in a variety of situations? Do you demonstrate grace and confidence up and down the organizational “food chain?” Do you treat people consistently well regardless of their status? Are you socially adaptable?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.


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