Adaptability is one of the 12 competencies of Emotional Intelligence, falling under the domain of self-management.
With life, comes uncertainty. With leadership, comes uncertainty from all directions and a responsibility to manage others through change. A leader with high EQ is going to be able to face challenges and change without freezing up; rather, they are quick to come up with fresh ideas and new approaches.
A leader with high EQ will communicate swiftly and consistently with their team to analyze new circumstances, identify possible next steps, and come up with an action plan. They manage to remain aligned with their mission and core values, but are open to changing the strategy, or the “how.”
Why adaptability matters, whether or not you are in a leadership role: when you are adaptable, you are able to stay focused on your purpose, vision, and goals, but you are open to adjusting the “how” of getting there.
In a study of MBA students 5-19 years after graduation, having the strength of adaptability was the #1 predictor of success and satisfaction out of all other Emotional and Social Intelligence competencies.
“The key to developing adaptability is to encode more positive input.” - Richard J. Davidson, professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
Increasing your adaptability is so simple, I daresay it's annoying: do more of what is good for your heart and mind, and stay away from negativity triggers as much as possible.
Research by neuroscientists show that stress-reducing activities, including aerobic exercise, walking in nature, meditation, and practicing compassion, are the most surefire ways to change your brain for the better and develop adaptability.
In the workplace, if you notice yourself or others are feeling stuck, unproductive, or resistant to change, try letting go of the strategies that aren't effective and engaging in self-reflection.
Instead of digging your heels in and trying to force results from the same actions, ask “How can I (or we) approach this differently? Do I (or we) have full context of the situation? What would [insert the name of a leader you greatly admire] do under these circumstances that I (or we) haven't done yet?”
In summary, highly adaptable people take care of their hearts and minds; they go out of their way to increase their intake of positive influences. Highly adaptable leaders ask great questions and let their ego step aside, so insights and innovation can flow in.