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Technical and Adaptive Challenges

Any leader is confronted with unexpected tasks and challenges that need to be responded and overcome quickly. However, some of them can be easily solved due to the knowledge and experience of a manager, while others require efforts on his or her part, as well as on the involvement of the staff. Therefore, it is necessary to understand and distinguish the features of these challenges to be able to cope with any problem by using appropriate resources.

Work challenges have a diverse nature, methods, and solutions, and require different changes. Heifetz distinguishes these problems and changes into two main types, such as technical and adaptive (“Ron Heifetz,” 2008). Technical challenges are relatively simple as the leader is already familiar with them and knows how to solve them in the fastest and most effective way. At the same time, adaptive challenges are new for both a leader and employees and the main responsibility lies with the training of employees.

There is also another type of problem that combines technical and adaptive changes, and a leader can use his or her experience, but he or she and the employees also require new knowledge to overcome the challenge.

I work at NBX Medical center pathology, and our team also often faces various challenges. An example of a technical issue that a leader easily solves by themselves is the lack of any equipment due to a shortage of funding. Our leader always asks the management of the center or finds sponsors if we need to replace or buy tools and equipment. An example of adaptive changes is the introduction of a new electronic system of medical records, which employees were not able to use.

The manager explained all the basic options of the program and sent a guideline to everyone. However, the primary responsibility was on employees who had to learn how to use the system on their own and report in case of its failure.

In general, all types of leadership may be applicable to solve problems requiring adaptive changes, although the laissez-faire style may be less effective. One of the principles of adaptive change is maintaining a discipline of attention, but the laissez-faire style involves minimal supervision in which it is difficult to control employees (“Ron Heifetz,” 2008; Harmon, 2019). An autocratic style may also be less effective as the leader, in this case, does not listen to the opinions of all employees but only gives orders, thereby taking full responsibility (Harmon, 2019). On the other hand, if all employees comply with the order and have the resources for their implementation, the problem will be solved.

However, such leadership types as transactional, transformational, coach and democratic have many advantages for implementing adaptive change. First, they all share responsibility between the leader and subordinates to a greater or lesser extent (Harmon, 2019). For this reason, a manager who uses any of these styles will guide employees but not solve the problem for them. In addition, the incentives and motivation that the manager regularly offers, combined with employees’ independence and participation in decision-making, create a favorable environment for finding solutions (Harmon, 2019). Leaders using these management styles also know how to think politically, which helps to implement adaptive changes.

Therefore, a manager who uses any leadership style can overcome both technical and adaptive challenges if he or she is aware of their difference. Technical problems can be solved by a manager based on his or her knowledge and experience, while adaptive ones require high-quality administration and learning of employees. For this reason, some of the forms of leadership may be more effective than others; however, any leader can overcome any challenges.


Harmon, E. (n.d.). 11 leadership styles and how to find yours. In the Loop. Web.

Ron Heifetz (2008). Web.

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