Why Adaptability Is The Most Important Leadership Trait

What one skill defines the best leaders in a chaotic marketplace? 

Adaptability

Aswath Damodaran told Patrick O’Shaughnessy that in a post-COVID world of inflation, recession risks, and geopolitical instability, the leaders who are going to make it are the leaders who are willing to change AND willing to listen

When he thinks about leaders and where he’s investing, he’s extra focused on people who are building companies that will outlast themselves. Damodaran also says the adaptability he’s looking for shapes how businesses thrive in and over time. 

If one person is calling all the shots, they may be adaptable in the moment, but what happens when they’re gone? It’s not enough to have an adaptable current leader. A sustainable and durable business needs an adaptable management team.  A business needs a group who is willing to change and willing to listen, collectively, 

This means he’s looking for people building other people up, and therefore diminishing their own level of importance, now and moving forward. In other words, he wants to find team builders, not iron-fisted empire builders. 

Culturally, we’re more interested in the Elon’s than the Gates’ these days. Both are (were) adaptable. But which businesses are more durable? Will Elon’s empire outlast him? I don’t know, but it makes you think about the business as an ecosystem around the leaders. 

The world feels extra messy right now. We pay a lot of attention to those who are going it alone, but to Damodaran’s point, we can learn a lot from those who are willing to change and willing to listen at the community level. 

Chew on that and let me know what you think. How are you building this into your job?

And if you want more, listen to Damodaran’s interview with Patrick O’Shaughnessy, “Making Sense of the Market.” 

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