Participant Guide

Module Three: Leadership: Moving from Managing to Leading

Description: The director will gain knowledge about the differences between managing and leading; types of leadership and how to use the self-assessment to assist in improving leadership skills.

Learning Objectives:

  • Knowledge: Compare and contrast the different types of leadership and their application within the agency. Learn what leadership styles work best in addressing race, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Skill: Display key leadership behaviors and skills in daily agency life. Empowering your internal leadership structures
  • Attitude: Advocate and support leadership at all levels of the agency.

Reading and Activities: 2 to 4 hours

Coaching: 2 hours

Segment #1: Communication in Leadership

Reading and Activities: 1 hour

Coaching: 1 hour

Learning Objective

The Director will learn expectations for clear, open, and honest, respectful, and accountable communication.


Effective communication is a fundamental skill for leaders. Effective leaders are effective communicators able to communicate effectively in many types of situations. The Core Practice Model Leadership Practice Profile identifies a leader who demonstrates accomplished practice in communication as one who is:

  • CLEAR: Seeks to be clear in all communication with everyone at all levels of the organization as well as internal partners and external partners including, families, children, youth, young adults, communities (including Tribes) and partners (such as behavioral health).
  • OPEN and HONEST: Is open and honest in communication with staff at all levels of the organization and partners.
  • RESPECTFUL: Is respectful staff at all levels of the organization and partners.
  • ACCOUNTABLE: Holds oneself accountable for behavior.

Core Practice Model Leadership Behaviors:

  1. Is Clear in communication by approaching all interactions with everyone at all levels of the organization, as well as internal partners and external partners including families, children, youth, young adults, communities, and external partners with clarity as exhibited by the following behaviors:
    • Uses age-appropriate language that everyone can understand
    • Asks staff and others what method of communication they prefer
    • Confirms with staff and others that your communication meets their language and literacy needs.
  2. Is Open and Honest in communication by approaching all interactions with everyone at all levels of the organization and partners (including Tribes) with openness as exhibited by the following behaviors:
    • Uses body language that demonstrates acceptance and affirmation of the staff and partners.
    • Is open and honest about any issues with staff or partners
    • Is open and honest about what information can be shared among team members and what information is confidential
    • Is transparent about the role of the court and the child welfare agency with family.
  3. Is Respectful towards everyone at all levels of the organization and partners.
    • Asks people how they prefer to be addressed.
    • Addresses individuals consistently by the name or title and pronouns they request in person and in writing, especially when interacting with Tribal leaders and members.
    • Responds to questions and describes the situation honestly, providing relevant facts and information about the system.
    • Makes clear statements about what information or action is being requested of staff.
    • Facilitates a dialogue regarding how the requested information and actions will affect the situation and support the staff member or family.
    • Shows deference to Tribal leadership and their titles in written and verbal communication.
  4. Is Accountable in one’s behavior towards everyone at all levels of the organization and partners.
    • Model accountability and trust by doing what you say you’re going to do.
    • Responsive to staff and partners by returning calls, texts, and emails within 24 business hours.
    • Responsible by being on time for appointments and asking for reports in to ensure staff have time to complete such reports.
    • Follows ICWA and other federal and state laws.


Core Practice Model practice profiles attempt to define the gradual progression of skill acquisition as leaders integrate a particular practice into their work. The profiles identify emerging, acquiring, and accomplished practice in each area of CPM.

  1. The Director will print out the Core Practice Model Leadership Practice Profile and
  2. Using the first 2 pages of that document, evaluate her/his skills in communication. The results will provide the basis for discussion during coaching.


  1. Core Practice Model Leadership Practice Profile

Preparation for next segment

Read the content of Segment #2 below and as many of the resources cited in Segment #2 (see end of this document for all resources)

Segment #2: Moving from Managing to Leading

Reading and Activities: up to 2 hours

Learning Objective

The director will gain knowledge of the different types of leadership and their appropriate uses.

The director will identify their primary leadership style.


This segment will review four different types of leadership types-- transformational, situational, technical or task-focused, and adaptive. More information on Adaptive Leadership is provided because it is more widely accepted as an effective practice in meeting challenges in the child welfare field. As a leader you should be familiar with all of the leadership styles outlined below and applying them in different situations and depending on the circumstances. However, Adaptive leadership is a preferred style in child welfare because of the complex, dynamic and ever-changing nature of the field.

  1. Transformational Leadership
    1. A dictionary definition of “transformation” states that: In an organizational context, [transformation is] a process of profound and radical change that orients an organization in a new direction and takes it to an entirely different level of effectiveness. It is not incremental progress on the same plane, but a basic change of character with little or no resemblance with the past configuration or structure.
    2. Transformational leaders typically lead based on their personal traits of vision and inspiration. They are often hired specifically to head an organization in flux or embarking on significant changes. Transformational leaders have strong vision and a passion for accomplishing great things, according to the website
    3. Being able to articulate the vision is critical for transformational leadership because employees must understand the vision and direction of the organization going forward. Passion helps the transformational leader “sell” the vision to the employees. This is important, especially in organizations with low morale and the organization plans a major change in direction. Transformational leaders must inspire and motivate workers to change their roles and perform in line with a new organizational philosophy.
    4. Transformational leaders lead by example. They use rapport, inspiration, or empathy to engage followers. They are courageous, confident, and willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
    5. They are single-minded in streamlining or changing what no longer works. They motivate workers and understand how to form them into integral and effective units that work well with others. Transformational leaders inspire people to achieve unexpected or remarkable results. They give workers autonomy over specific jobs, and the authority to make decisions once they have been trained.
    6. Other characteristics of transformational leaders:
      • Very well-organized
      • Respect followers
      • Engender respect through rapport and a personal influence
      • Team-oriented, act as team coach, provide training, and expect followers will work creatively and together for best possible results
      • Provide training and maximize their teams’ capability and capacity
      • Responsible for their team, but instill responsibility into team members
      • Work to change the system
      • Solve challenges by finding experiences that show that old patterns do not fit or work
      • Want to know what has to change
    7. Advantages and disadvantages of transformational leadership
      1. Transformational leadership pros:
        • Work well where change is needed
        • Excellent at communicating new ideas
        • Good at balancing short-term vision and long-term goals
        • Build strong coalitions and establish mutual trust
        • Have integrity and high emotional intelligence (empathy with others)
      2. Transformational leadership cons:
        • Require an existing structure to fix so not needed in initial stages, new organizations, or ad-hoc situations
        • Bad fit in bureaucratic structures
    8. A good use of this leadership style is in an outdated organization that requires serious retooling. It is a good match for an organization that wants to change and adapt to achieve a big goal.

Transformational leadership quotations:

  • Edwards Deming: “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”
  • Peter Drucker: “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
  • Ross Perot: “Punishing honest mistakes stifles creativity. I want people moving and shaking the earth and they are going to make mistakes.”
  • John D. Rockefeller: “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”


What is Transformational Leadership? How New Ideas Produce Impressive Results

Published On: November 25, 2014

Updated On: May 08, 2018

  • Situational Leadership
    1. Situational leaders rely on analysis and intuition of a situation to lead in a way that makes sense based on that particular situation. Other leadership styles are based on the leader’s traits and approaches, but situational leadership is based on the idea that the leader applies different leadership skills to each situation s/he faces.
    2. Situational leaders emphasize retaining top employees and make individual development a priority for organizational success.
    3. Situational leadership is an adaptive leadership style. It encourages leaders to assess their team members and the many variables in the organization and choose the leadership style that best fits their goals and circumstances.
    4. Situational leadership is a model for organizations that want to:
      • Develop people and workgroups
      • Establish rapport and to bring out the best in their people
      • Use a common leadership style across the organization
    5. Situational leadership is flexible. It adapts to the existing work environment and organizational needs. It is not based on a specific skill of the leader; instead, the leader modifies their management style to suit the organization’s requirements.
    6. Situational leaders move from one leadership style to another to meet the changing needs of an organization and its employees. These leaders must have the insight to understand when to change their leadership style and what leadership strategy fits each new paradigm.
    7. There are two mainstream models of situational leadership, one described by Daniel Goleman and another by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hershey.
    8. Daniel Goleman, the author of “Emotional Intelligence,” defines six styles within situational leadership.
      • Coaching leaders work on an individual’s personal development and job-related skills. This style works best with people who know their limitations and are open to change.
      • Pacesetting leaders set very high expectations for their followers. This style works best with highly motivated self-starters. The leader leads by example. This style is used sparingly since it can lead to follower burnout.
      • Democratic leaders give followers a vote in most decisions. This style can build flexibility and responsibility within the group, but it is time consuming and not useful when facing deadlines.
      • Affiliative leaders put employees first. This style addresses very low morale. The leader uses praise and helpfulness to build up the team’s confidence. This style may risk poor performance while team building is occurring.
      • Authoritative leaders analyze problems and identify challenges. This style is good if an organization is drifting aimlessly. This leader gets followers to help figure out how to solve a problem.
      • Coercive leaders tell their subordinates what to do. They have a very clear vision of the goals and how to reach them. This style is good in disasters or an organization needing a total overhaul.
    9. The second model is based on the work done by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey. They focus on two concepts: leadership, and the follower’s developmental level. Blanchard and Hersey developed a matrix consisting of four styles:
      • Telling leaders = S1 (specific guidance and close supervision): These leaders make decisions and communicate them to others. They create the roles and objectives and expect others to accept them. Communication is usually one way. This style is most effective in a disaster or when repetitive results are required.
      • Selling = S2 (explaining and persuading): These leaders may create roles and objectives for others, but they are open to suggestions and opinions. They “sell” their ideas to others to gain cooperation.
      • Participating = S3 (sharing and facilitating): These leaders leave decisions to their followers. They may participate in decision making, but the ultimate choice is left to employees.
      • Delegating = S4 (letting others do it): These leaders are responsible for their teams but provide minimum guidance or help to solve problems. They may be asked from time to time to help with decision-making.
    10. Stages of employee development in situational leadership
      • Along with leadership qualities, Blanchard and Hersey defined four types of development for followers or employees:
        1. Low Competence: High Commitment
        2. Some Competence: Low Commitment
        3. High Competence: Variable Commitment
        4. High Competence: High Commitment
      • Blanchard and Hersey also suggest that each of the four approaches should be paired with different “maturity levels” among team members.
        1. For example, the lowest maturity level (M1) should work best with the “telling” style (S1), while the highest maturity level (M4) should be most responsive to the “delegating” approach (S4).
      • The difference between situational leadership and other leadership styles is that situational leadership incorporates many different techniques. The style of choice depends upon the organization’s environment and the competence and commitment of its followers.
    11. Some characteristics of the situational leadership style:
      • Insight: The situational leader has to understand the followers’ needs, then adjust the management style to meet those needs
      • Flexibility: Situational leaders must move seamlessly from one type of leadership style to another
      • Trust: The leader must gain followers’ trust and confidence
      • Problem solving: The leader must solve problems, e.g., how to get a job done using the best leadership style available
      • Coach: The situational leader must evaluate the maturity and competence of the followers and apply the right strategy to enhance the follower and their personal character
    12. Advantages and disadvantages of situational leadership:
      • Situational leadership pros:
        1. Easy to use: If a leader has the right style, they know it
        2. Simple: All the leader needs to do is evaluate the situation and apply the correct leadership style
        3. Intuitive appeal: With the right leader, this style is comfortable
        4. Leaders have permission to change management styles as they see fit
      • Situational leadership cons:
        1. Situational leaders can divert attention away from long-term strategies and politics
      • Benefits of situational leadership
        1. Situational leadership means “choosing the right leadership style for the right people,” according to Blanchard and Hersey.
        2. It also depends on the competence and maturity of the followers.

Quotations from situational leaders

  • Margaret Wheatley: “Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.”
  • Colin Powell: “Leadership is solving problems.”
  • Mahatma Gandhi: “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles, but today it means getting along with people.”
  • Margaret Thatcher: “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

Citation: What is Situational Leadership? How Flexibility Leads to Success

Published On: November 25, 2014

Updated On: May 08, 2018

  1. Task-oriented or Technical Leadership
    • In technical leadership, the answers are already known. The challenge is clear, the solution and its implementation is clear and within existing capabilities and knowledge, the perspectives of major stakeholders are aligned, and the leader takes primary control and responsibility. Technical problem can be complex, but they can be solved using knowledge and procedures that are already available.
    • Technical challenges involve processes or mechanics that with the correct expertise and approach are fixable. In child welfare, an example would be foster parents not receiving foster care payments timely. The solution would involve examining the payment system and processes to ensure foster care payment are received timely.
    • This leadership style emphasizes the tasks needed to achieve goals. The task-oriented style fits the definition of a manager, not that of a leader. According to the Center for Leadership Development, “The manager plans, organizes and coordinates. The leader inspires and motivates.”
    • Technical leaders emphasize completing tasks required to meet organizational goals.
    • While it can be useful in a modern workplace, task-oriented leadership can lack attention to the well-being of team members, which can prove to be a deficiency in many leadership scenarios.
    • A task-oriented leader places a heavy emphasis on structure, plans, and schedules for getting things done. This leadership style might include:
      1. Step-by-step planning and reward/punishment systems
      2. Constantly defining structure and goals
      3. Prioritizing achievement of specific outcomes
      4. Sticking to rigid schedules
      5. Requiring employees to set process-oriented goals and formulate plans to achieve them
    • Because task-oriented leadership is essentially an autocratic style, it can lead to retention and motivation problems.
    • Contemporary leadership studies have illustrated that task-oriented leadership is too simplistic for many modern workplace environments.

Citation: What is Task-Oriented Leadership?

Published On: November 25, 2014

Updated On: May 08, 2018

  • Adaptive Leadership
    1. The following section on Adaptive Leadership, Using Leadership to Deal with Challenges and Promote Change, is adapted from the Child and Family Services Reviews Information Portal provided by The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a division of the Department of Health & Human Services.
    2. Leaders in today’s changing organizations must deploy resources toward adaptation and innovation in implementing and managing their programs and must energize and inspire those around them to achieve.
    3. Various leadership models help develop leadership knowledge, skills, and capacity to lead effectively on a day-by-day basis.
    4. The Adaptive Leadership model is particularly effective for significant systems change efforts; it enables organizations to adapt and flourish in complex, challenging environments.
    5. Adaptive Leadership presents strong evaluative skills and techniques for distinguishing the necessary from the dispensable, having courageous conversations, encouraging experimentation and creativity, tolerating risk-taking and mistakes, and dealing with loss.
      • A capable leader continually and artfully works to bring about real change, embraced by the entire organization, from the status quo.
      • Adaptive Leadership recognizes the value of individual employees and their contributions to the organization’s overall success, and stresses that effectively using systems change leadership model will result in much greater engagement of the workforce in the workings of the organization.
      • One difficulty many leaders have is distinguishing technical from adaptive challenges. Adaptive challenges require people to learn new behaviors or change attitudes or beliefs. Technical challenges have known solutions. The ability to distinguish between the two types of challenges and tailor efforts to meet the challenges is a leadership skill. If technical fixes are employed for a problem that continues to persist, that is an indication that an underlying adaptive challenge exists.
      • For example, data may show that your state has issues locating and engaging absent fathers. Leadership initially sees this as a technical problem and institutes a new parent locator system. However, data continue to show that absent fathers are not being contacted and engaged. After looking deeper, it becomes clear that many staff believe that absent fathers contribute limited value to a case and that staff efforts can be better spent in other ways. It becomes obvious that this is a significant adaptive challenge, requiring education of staff so they begin to understand and think in new ways about the value of fathers and paternal relatives to the child.
    6. Having Courageous Conversations
      • A critical leadership task is producing a culture that encourages creativity, flexible behaviors and attitudes, and embracing new ideas.
      • It’s important to have dialogue during solution-seeking that is probing and challenging or having “courageous conversations.”
      • Since change often challenges deeply held values and beliefs, courageous conversations confront delicate issues and challenge assumptions, beliefs, and processes at the individual, unit, division, regional, and organization-wide levels.
      • They are also about leaders listening to all voices, including dissenters, and giving and receiving tough messages. Openness to these conversations allows leaders to be perceived as more authentic, credible, and trustworthy.
      • For example, a far-reaching issue that impacts staff, stakeholders, and other community agencies is institutional racial/ethnic disparity and disproportionality.
      • Courageous conversations may be needed to reveal and articulate deep-seated behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes that impair individual and organizational ability to ensure fairness and equity in dealing with families of different races or ethnicities.
      • Such individual conversations may cause discomfort and even distress, but they are necessary to confront assumptions and prejudices, foster true learning and growing, and promote deep, effective, and lasting change.
      • On an individual level, a courageous conversation with a caseworker could involve a situation where a state began dual licensure of both foster and adoptive homes, using the same standards and processes, and an adoption worker expressed strong resistance.
      • The worker voiced that losing the adoption perspective would not be good for children, when, on a deeper level, she feared loss of status as an adoption expert. A courageous conversation would need to occur with that worker to help her confront and deal with her feelings of loss regarding her position within the agency and help her learn to be of value in the new system.
    7. Encouraging Experimentation and Creativity
      • Finding true solutions to adaptive challenges means the involvement of leaders, staff, external stakeholders, and consumers. Leadership must empower these groups to explore novel solutions.
      • Integral to leadership is a willingness to take calculated risks and encourage innovation and experimentation in problem-solving around major challenges and day-to-day situations.
      • Leaders can foster an atmosphere of exploring unprecedented ideas and measured risk-taking by framing solution-seeking efforts as experiments.
      • To set the stage for experimentation, it may be necessary to disrupt existing patterns and allow uncertainty and conflicts to emerge between individuals and groups.
      • Skilled leadership involves active orchestration of uncertainty and discomfort toward a focused dialogue of the presenting issues so that the disturbance is productive, rather than destructive; through this “disequilibrium” and dynamic interaction, change and new ways of doing things often emerge.
      • For example, an agency with limited quality assurance (QA) case review resources might use its foster care review board to supplement QA case reviews by providing qualitative case information around permanency and well-being items while the QA case review teams focus more on safety and in-home cases.
      • This solution might pose several adaptive challenges to be resolved, such as “turf” issues and empowerment of the review board and might also require courageous conversations.
      • Some agencies have devised unique ways of educating managers and supervisors to manage by data.
      • Still others have used the steps of their CQI model as a logical, beneficial method of dealing with difficult internal processes, such as case transfer between units or divisions when the receiving unit is resistant to taking the case.
    8. Tolerating Risk-Taking and Mistakes
      • A critical element of effective change leadership is a tolerance of risk-taking by those who, while working through the change process, make mistakes or try new ideas that prove unsuccessful. Trial and error is an important part of successful change, so those navigating the change process must develop the insight to risk and know failure and be able to learn and adapt from those failures.
      • Traditionally, the field of child welfare does not tolerate mistakes because the stakes – children’s safety – are so high. This can make experimentation and implementation of innovations challenging. For example, in the 1980s, many child welfare practitioners opposed the implementation of family preservation services, because they felt that foster care better ensured child safety. Now, there is evidence that keeping children with their families with safety supports improves outcomes.
      • Tolerance of risk-taking as part of the change process does not mean tolerating risks that result in children being unsafe. The improvement process requires informed, balanced risk-taking to improve outcomes for families and children, and continuing to ensure children’s safety. Leaders who accept and effectively deal with lack of success as part of change become stronger because resulting lessons show where assumptions were wrong and where future investments could be targeted. As the child welfare field moves toward implementing data-based management, expanded continuous quality improvement systems, evaluating programs and outcomes, and use of evidence-based practice, implementing change involves less risk.
    9. Dealing With Loss
      • Rather than resisting change per se, many people resist loss of their roles or of the status quo. A common factor contributing to difficulty adapting or changing is fear of, and resistance to, loss and doing things a new way. If change involves real or potential loss, even in perceptions and beliefs, it can be painful and difficult. Those affected may respond out of fear and anxiety, and these feelings, if not addressed, can slow down or even derail a thoughtful, well-managed change effort.
      • A key to effective leadership is to anticipate and deal with the kinds of losses – from roles, job functions, status, and relevance; to beliefs, identity, and competence – that are at stake in a situation. Capable leaders will identify, assess, provide context for, and manage losses so that people can move to new ways of doing things. Helping people learn and appreciate that their loss contributes to beginning something valuable and substantive should help move them along.

The following section is adapted from “Becoming an Adaptive Leader” Based on the work of Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky:

  • Adaptive leadership mobilizes people to tackle tough challenges and thrive. The concept of thriving comes from evolutionary biology, in which successful adaptation has three characteristics: (1) it preserves what is necessary for a species’ continued survival; (2) it discards what no longer serves a species’ current needs; and (3) it creates new arrangements for the species to flourish in more challenging environments. How does this apply to adaptive leadership?
    1. Adaptive leadership is about change that enables the capacity to thrive. New environments and new dreams demand new strategies and abilities, and the leadership to mobilize them.
    2. Successful adaptive changes build on the past rather than throw it away. Adaptive leadership engages people in distinguishing what is essential to preserve and what is expendable.
    3. Organizational adaptation occurs through experimentation. Adaptive leaders have an experimental mindset. They improvise. For example, companies might lose money on failures until they identify a successful product.
    4. Adaptation relies on diversity. Nature builds in diversity so that a species will survive in a changing ecosystem. Adaptive leadership builds a culture that values diverse views and relies less on central planning by the few at the top.
    5. New adaptations significantly displace and rearrange old ways. Adaptive leadership can generate loss and learning can be painful. One person’s innovation is another person’s feeling of being irrelevant or incompetent. Adaptive leadership has to predict and recognize these defensive patterns and counteract them.
    6. Adaptation takes time and persistence to consolidate adaptations into new norms and processes. Cultures change slowly. (Source: The Practice of Adaptive Leadership)
    7. Adaptive challenges require leadership that mobilizes people to address tangled, complex problems composed of multiple systems that resist technical analysis and where there is a lot at stake. Adaptive challenges require creating new models and approaches, experimenting, evaluating, redesigning, and continuous learning.
    8. Adaptive leadership is mobilizing employees to engage and make progress on its deepest challenges. Mobilizing people for adaptive work is to help them enter that risk zone where there is new learning, new self-understanding, and new ways of acting.
  • The Process of Adaptive Leadership is an iterative process involving three activities:
  1. Observing events and patterns
  2. Interpreting what you are observing and developing multiple hypotheses about what is going on
  3. Designing interventions based on the observations and hypotheses.

This process is repeated and refined.

  • Leaders feel pressure to solve problems quickly. Often leaders minimize the time spent in diagnosis, data collection, or exploring multiple interpretations and potential interventions. To diagnose an organization requires achieving some distance from the “on-the-ground” events.
  • Adaptive leadership uses “getting on the balcony” above the “dance floor” to gain a distanced perspective to see what is really happening.
  • A leader who can continually move between the dance floor and balcony will continually assess what is happening in the organization and take corrective action. This allows the leader to see what is happening immediately and see the larger patterns and dynamics.
  • Sometimes people begin analyzing a problem by personalizing them (“if s/he was a better leader . . .”) or attributing the problem to interpersonal conflict (“these two people don’t work well together . . .”).
  • Personalization can obscure a systemic understanding of the situation. Conflict between two people can be structural even if it seems personal. Counteract personalization by diagnosing and acting on the system.
  • How an adaptive leader designs effective intervention
    1. Get on the balcony. Observe what is going on. Stay diagnostic. Develop more than one interpretation. Look for patterns. Reality test your interpretations. Debrief with partners often to assess information and think through your next move.
    2. Determine the ripeness of the issue. Are people ready to address the issue? Is their urgency to deal with it across the organization? If only a subgroup cares passionately, it’s not ripe yet. Ripeness is critical in planning and timing an intervention.
    3. Ask, who am I in this picture? How are you experienced by various groups and subgroups? What role do you play in them? What perspectives on issues do you embody for them? If they are comfortable with the way, you usually act, they are probably proficient at managing you in that role so that you don’t disturb their equilibrium. Consistency is a high value in management but a significant constraint in leading adaptively. You will have to be less predictable than usual to get constructive attention and make progress.
    4. Think hard about your framing. Communicate to help group members understand what you have in mind, why the intervention is important, and how they can help carry it out. A well-framed intervention starts where they are, not where the leader is. Think about whether the people you are talking with need data first or emotion. Connect your words to the group’s values and purpose. Think of the difference between strong attention-getting language and loaded language that may trigger a flight-or-fight response instead of engagement.
    5. Hold steady. When you make an intervention, let people digest it and let it make its way through your organization. Don’t think of it as “yours,” you want it to become their idea. You can’t control what happens with your intervention so resist the impulse to jump in. Listen closely to how various subgroups respond to your idea, so you can calibrate your next move. Watch for how and what about your idea takes hold. Watch for avoidance in the form of silence or immediate rejection. Your silence is a form of intervention. Stay present and keep listening. People will appreciate, even if they never say so, the patience and respect you show.
    6. Analyze the factions that begin to emerge. As people in your own group begin to discuss your intervention, pay attention to who is engaged, who starts using your language or ideas as if their own. Listen for resistance. Use these observations to see the factions that various people represent on the issue. Faction mapping of your own group informs you about how the larger organization will respond. This is helpful because refining and implementing your intervention will require the involvement of people from the larger organization.
    7. Keep the work at the center of people’s attention. Expect that your team will find ways to avoid focusing on doing the diagnosis and action work of adaptive change. Resistance to your intervention is more about fears of loss than the merits of your idea. Begin by learning how your idea will impact your constituents and the team member who represents them, and how the constituents’ pleasure or displeasure will affect your team’s behavior. Then help your team member present the idea to their group and make sure your team member gets credit for making the idea happen. Another strategy is to think about how a group’s resistance may represent threat and loss. Take these fears seriously and treat them with respect. Finally, identify allies to help you in this process.

Weaknesses of the adaptive leadership style:

  • Adaptive leaders must learn and have a very wide set of skills so that they are able to adjust their leadership approach based on the circumstances they face. Instead of always relying on one type of leadership, an adaptive leader has to be able to evaluate their circumstances and adjust their approach whenever and however it is necessary.
  • Adaptive leaders challenge the status quo and lead major systemic changes. This type of leader is not the right leader for an organization whose governing body wants to limit change.
  • Adaptive leaders are skilled at identifying creative, innovative responses to problems that may be uncomfortable for some who are seeking a definite, tried-and-true solution to a problem.

Adaptive leadership quotes:

  • Chinese proverb: Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back
  • Stephen Covey: Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
  • Brent Gleeson: Adaptive leaders get better results because they build dynamic teams that embrace change and channel fear into positive outcomes.

Ronald Heifetz: Leadership is the process of bringing a new and generally unwelcome reality to an individual, organization or setting, and helping them successfully adapt to it.


  1. Read/review all resources as time allows for Segment #1 (see end of this document for all resources)
  2. Review the Four Domains of Leadership Strength and using this tool determine you and your management team’s leadership styles.
  3. Consider which of the leadership styles would work best in addressing race, equity, diversity and inclusion.


  1. Four Domains of Leadership Strength

Preparation for next module

Segment #3: Use your leadership assessment to develop your adaptive leadership skills

Reading and Activities: up to 2 hours

Coaching: 1 hour

Learning Objective

The director will use the Adaptive Leadership Toolkit to:

  • Assess themselves and their team.
  • Understand their primary leadership style and gain knowledge, skills, and tools to enhance their leadership style and improve their leadership skills.
  • Gain knowledge and understanding of how to use the leadership styles of your team to support and complement each other.
  • Learn how to apply the concepts of adaptive leadership to the larger organization.
  • Identify which style will work best in addressing race, equity, diversity, and inclusion.


  1. The focus of this segment will be on Adaptive Leadership and its importance in an organization. The adaptive leadership style is highly desirable and effective in a child welfare organization due to the constant changing environment of child welfare with new initiatives, programs and legislative requirements.
  2. The director needs to be able to adapt quickly and bring their team along with them. Understanding the leadership styles of oneself and the leadership team members will assist in understanding how each member approaches change and the best tools and strategies to bring them on board with the change.
  3. Adaptive leadership assists in creating a learning environment in which systems are set in place to measure, monitor and adapt to changes that are implemented allowing for lessons learned and leading to improved outcomes.
  4. The previous segment focused on self-assessment of individual leadership styles. Keeping this information in mind the leader now has a sense of what the strengths are of the team members and can use them strategically in the steps of implementation. Once the team understands their own leadership styles then they can look at the organization and how they as a leadership team can create an adaptive organizational culture through leadership.
  5. To assist with this American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) has produced an adaptive Leadership Toolkit that the leadership team can use. The toolkit is not prescriptive, but identifies the adaptive leadership fundamentals, provides a snapshot of strengths and areas for growth around those fundamentals, and offers examples of strategies and considerations to develop one’s adaptive leadership approach.
  6. The toolkit takes into account the multiple levels of a change process, including:
    • One’s own leadership role
    • Leadership within the organization (the team of leaders within the organization)
    • Agency culture regarding change
    • The approach to the organization’s work (service delivery, continuous improvement, and outcomes)
    • The engagement of staff (line staff, case workers, etc).


  1. Review as many materials in Segment #3 resource list as time allows (see end of this document for all resources)
  2. Complete the APHSA Adaptive Leadership Toolkit with leadership team
  3. View Giving Work Back eLearning
  4. Using your Adaptive Leadership Toolkit assessment and the Four Domains of Leadership Strength tool, develop a leadership assessment that will assist to identify which team members would be best for the different stages of implementation based on their leadership style.
  5. Review/Refine professional development plan


  1. Adaptive Leadership Toolkit
  2. National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI). E learning course on Giving Work Back
  3. The Four Domains of Leadership Strength assessment
  4. Professional Development Plan

Preparation for next module

Begin review information on Statewide Meetings and Regional Work in Module Four


Segment #1:

Leadership Practice Profile

Segment #2:

What is Transformational Leadership? How New Ideas Produce Impressive Results

What is Situational Leadership? How Flexibility Leads to Success

What is Task-Oriented Leadership?

Child and Family Services Reviews Information Portal, The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Department of Health & Human Services.

Becoming an Adaptive Leader

Positioning Public Child Welfare: Leadership Guidance

Advice to a New Child Welfare Services Leader, Annie E. Casey Foundation (2011)

7 Behaviors of Adaptive Leadership. National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. (5 minutes).

Adaptive Leadership Toolkit, American Public Human Services Association (12 pages)

Adaptive Leadership Course. National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. (35-45 minutes, 3 mini modules).

Learning & Living the NCWWI Leadership Model, National Child Welfare Workforce Institute

Four Domains of Leadership Strength

Segment #3:

What Do All Great Leaders Have in Common? (12.5 minutes)

Leading Change with Vision. National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, (2 minutes).

The Art of Facilitation Microlearning

Moving Beyond Bias Microlearning

National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI). E learning course on Giving Work Back

The Seven Behaviors of Adaptive Leadership, National Child Welfare Workforce Institute

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