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Cultivating Adaptive Leaders to Drive System and Policy Change

Lee Hinton, Nana Esi Gaisie, Kerrie L. Schnake, and Ekaterina Zoubak


Adaptive leadership requires that practitioners push the boundaries of current policies and systems to provide optimal services to children and families. This process includes self-reflection, strategic positioning, building relationships with advocates, inspiring service providers and policymakers, and creating a shared vision. This article explores the use of adaptive leadership to move systems and policies forward in a hospital setting in Ghana, provincial and community-based work in Canada, and through infant and early childhood mental health networks. Building relationships and empowering leaders to advocate both independently and as part of a group can help leverage the influence needed for change.

System and policy change do not take place in a vacuum. One individual or organization cannot bring about change. Instead, change requires collaboration, inspiration, persistence, and motivation. Successful change leaders have strengths in the areas of communication, leading collaborative efforts, initiating the change process, helping to develop a shared vision of change, strategizing a path forward, and motivating others to commit to the process of change no matter how long it takes (Centre for Creative Leadership, 2019). Adaptive leaders, armed with these qualities, have the capacity to change systems and inform policies that can ultimately promote the well-being of young children and their families.

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