The Struggle for Leaders to Be Adaptable Yet Focused

Without falling into the hustle glorification trap, I think it’s safe to say that most of us leaders struggle with juggling the demands on our time, getting those priorities addressed, while remaining adaptable.

So, how can we, as leaders, be both adaptable and focused on advancing initiatives?


As a CEO myself, that unfortunately is also a constant struggle and I have to remind myself of the need to push for focus otherwise my time would get swallowed up.

For sure, when running an organization, it’s essential for us to be able to adapt to whatever is being thrown our way.

Whether it’s a major complaint that needs investigating, an essential team member who leaves suddenly or even a client that demands a situation be solved “today”, these unexpected challenges can threaten to swallow up our days, weeks or even months.

I know for myself sometimes it feels like all I do is go from one crisis-of-the-day to the next. And meanwhile my inbox keeps growing with requests that only I can address and Slack keeps notifying me that I’m being tagged in an increasing numbers of messages. Oh, and there are still a few people who actually call. Let’s add that to the mix.


As an “adaptable” leader, it’s tempting to jump in and address as many issues as we can, as quickly as we can. Let’s go! Let’s knock these things out!

The danger in that mindset, in that constant pressure that we put on ourselves to get more and more done by squeezing as much as we can from every second of every day, is yes, of course burn out as exhaustion sets in. But another potentially even more insidious threat is decision-fatigue.

Because being that adaptable leader, in a state where we’re struggling to analyze the constant flow of information coming our way, we could easily start filling our time with “the emergencies” and stop or slow down significantly progress on the business’s true difference makers and current needs.


So what can we do to help ensure that we remain adaptable leaders but ones who address the situations that are coming at us while still remaining focused on the “right” path for the organization.


Yes, it’s important to take in new information to ensure that we course-correct if need be. We certainly don’t want to go from adaptable to rigid and potentially damaging the organization in the process.

But we do want to make sure that any potential change in direction is necessary as opposed to getting pulled down a path where we really shouldn’t be or that we’re being drawn in by that “squeeky wheel”.

By keeping the quarterly initiatives and priorities top of mind, as we’re being presented with new information, we can evaluate that new information against our initiatives and priorities and determine whether we need to take action on it now, later or even at all.
This ensures that we don’t end up deviating too far off course as we continue to pursue that longer-term goal and fulfilling the organization’s mission.


What are your non-negotiables for the day? What are those time-sensitive, pre-planned items that absolutely must get done to achieve those quarterly goals.

There will be many items jumping at you calling for your attention.

Ask yourself if someone truly needs help:

  • Does it have to be you?
  • Is the information written down somewhere that you could point them to?
  • Does it have to be now?
  • Can it be done after whatever essential element must happen that day.
  • Can it be a quick asynchronous voice memo?

Consider the many other ways this could be addressed.

And it’s best to come up with these alternate paths before these situations happen. Maybe with a little prep beforehand, it can protect boundaries later.


This one sounds counterintuitive but:

  • taking a lunch break.
  • getting some fresh air – not just opening a window, actually going outside.
  • working out -- even walking or moving around the office, but by going outside you would kill two birds with one stone.
  • meditating for 10 minutes.

It all makes a huge difference.

It clears our mind.

It re-energizes the body.

It increases oxygen in your body (assuming you did get that fresh air).

As much as we think – and I know because I’ve said this myself – “No, I don’t have time to stop and do these things”, it makes all the difference in being able to come up with more creative solutions, having more patience to deal with the trying situations and in helping reduce that decision fatigue.

As leaders, we never know what will come our way next or how impactful that “what” will be.

Without becoming completely obsessed with this, we do need to be ready to be adaptable while remaining focused on advancing organizational initiatives.


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