“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” -- Stephen Hawking
Leadership is all about change. Some of us are good at it while others aren’t. But truth be told, it’s important no matter how risk adverse we are, to be open minded and willing to be flexible. Life and work are in a constant state of flex. Sometimes stability is just a myth. We can be focused and committed to a direction and then encounter circumstances, whether positive or negative, that make us change our strategy.
I just finished an incredible and enlightening six-day kayaking adventure with Baja Outdoor Activities (BOA) based out of La Paz, Mexico, circumnavigating Isla Espirtu Santo in the Sea of Cortez. Talk about being flexible…every day the guides modified our direction, the time of daily departure and our kayaking strategy to find the best route given the weather. It was all about adapting.
The knowledgeable guides, Antonio and Chino, who we trusted explicitly with their wisdom of the sea consistently read the wind, the tide, the forecast, the boat traffic, even the mood of the kayakers (their skill and fatigue), to identify both challenges and opportunities.
Forget what the brochure said about where and when we would camp and what route we would take. The guides, our leaders, were empowered to make changes based on external and internal variables, from weather to the interests and disposition of my fellow adventurers.
It seems the best leaders also practice this as they constantly check the tenor of the environment—the morale of staff, partnerships, and customers. Good leaders constantly and consistently consider external forces or trends that may impact the organization, be they political, social, cultural or environmental. And then flex, shift direction, even re-invent oneself and the company.
I learned other lessons on my Kayaking tour of the island. Adaptation is also the tradition of the indigenous peoples of Baja, as we learned from our well-educated BOA guides who brought not only kayaking skills but university training in anthropology and marine biology. The native Pericú Indians of the area learned to survive in the arid desert of the islands of Isla Espiritu Santo by the ingenious use of natural resources – from the cactus to the marine animals and birds.
The lessons of the Kayaking trip in the Sea of Cortez will stay with me as I promise to stay open minded and recommit to practicing the Art of Adaptability.