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In Adaptive situations, the organization must constantly sense changes in the external environment and then respond to these changes - rather than sticking to a well worn and pre-planned path. Adaptive Leaders must thus help their organizations change in ways that will allow it to do what it has never done before.
An Adaptive Leader must therefore manage patterns, paradox, transformation and actions, rather than predicting and controlling people and events.
He or she was once defined by the US Military as "A leader who can influence people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation - while operating in a complex, dynamic environment of uncertainty and ambiguity to accomplish the mission and improve the organization."
Also, see "Complex Adaptive Systems" in this glossary.