Adaptive Leadership in Recovery Services

By Wendy Buttacy

Strategic thinking and operational planning are valued skills for leaders in both nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Everyone wants to bring THE plan to scale their organization to fulfill its mission. Organizations grow when leaders execute these skills and strategies, and teams feel secure with a clear and defined pathway toward an inspiring vision.

But what happens when everything doesn't go according to THE plan? Strategic plans hit roadblocks and fail to hit missional goals; this is reality. Those providing day-to-day recovery services might chuckle reading this because their situations change daily. Change is at the heart of recovery, and the needs and challenges of those who walk through our doors are diverse.

Effective leaders in this field must adapt. An inflexible strategic or operational plan fails in any industry, especially human services. Here are some tips to help exercise effective adaptive leadership strategies:

  1. Honestly Address Emotions: You and your team put work into this plan; frustration is a normal reaction. Practice self-awareness and allow yourself and your team to process them healthily.
  2. Normalize Change: A solid plan includes constant evaluation and adaptation. Normalizing roadblocks, pivots, and rethinking creates flexible mindsets and encourages ongoing innovation.
  3. Reinforce the "Why": Inspirational leaders keep focus on the organizational mission and vision during difficult times and encourage team members to remain rooted in their motivation for service.
  4. Be Open: Identify what's gone off the rails and ask why. Seek counsel from stakeholders inside and outside your organization to gain perspective and be open to new ideas.
  5. Adapt & Execute: Establish the needed pivot and move forward with confidence. Teams handle setbacks well if they feel their voices have been heard, needed changes are made, and leaders are willing to do the work necessary to see things through. It’s a team effort!

If you are in a season where pivots and setbacks abound, be encouraged. YOU ARE GROWING! No lasting or effective change occurs without setbacks. Allow Proverbs 16:3 to guide us today, "Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed."

Wendy Buttacy serves as the chief operating officer at Adult & Teen Challenge USA and has worked in the recovery field for ten years. She speaks on the subject of faith-based addiction recovery as well as non-profit organizational leadership development at conferences and universities. Wendy holds an M.A. in Counseling from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Psychology from Evangel University.