According to Ronald Heifetz, there are two types of challenges educational leaders face: technical and adaptive. Technical challenges are defined as those that can be solved by the knowledge of experts, whereas adaptive challenges require new learning.
When the problem definition, solution, and implementation is clear, Heifetz calls this technical change. Adaptive change must comes from the collective intelligence of church leaders and members at all levels. So, together they learn their way toward solutions.
According to Tod Bolsinger, understanding Adaptive Change is a key skill for church leaders because “they are challenges that go beyond the technical solutions of resident experts or best practices, or even the organization’s current knowledge. They arise when the world around us has changed but we continue to live on the successes of the past. They are challenges that cannot be solved through compromise or win-win scenarios, or by adding another ministry or staff person to the team. They demand that leaders make hard choices about what to preserve and to let go. They are challenges that require people to learn and to change, that require leaders to expe-rience and navigate profound loss.”
The key to navigating Adaptive Change is guiding people through loss. Heifetz notes that “people do not resist change, per se. People resist loss. You appear dangerous to people when you question their values, beliefs, or habits of a lifetime. You place yourself on the line when you tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. Although you may see with clarity and passion a promising future of progress and gain, people will see with equal passion the losses you are asking them to sustain.”
Lastly, Heifetz stresses that educational leaders need to be able to think politically. Leading adaptive challenges require that we develop a strategy for learning. Our strategy needs to be who needs to learn what and how.