This week, I’m on year five camp. One of our main teaching points for the students centres around developing leadership skills. The focus of my graduate studies has been on spiritual leadership, so I’ve spent considerable time thinking about what makes a great leader.
One of the lesser-mentioned leadership skills in my experience is adaptability. Adaptability is a leader’s ability to go with the flow, allow for the unexpected, and make adjustments to fit changing circumstances.
How do you lead with adaptability?
In 2016 I was in a play called The Good Doctor by Neil Simon. It was a quick rehearsal period of only three weeks. But we needed to be show-ready for the Christmas holidays. We were performing at Ensemble Theatre in Kirribilli and most of the tickets for the three-month season were sold out before we opened.
Three days before our first preview audience, our lead actor, Glenn Hazeldine, an audience favourite, hit a curb on his motorbike, broke his collarbone and fractured his arm.
Not good news for Glenn.
Not good news for the show.
Glenn would be okay. But he was in no condition to lead a full season of performances.
A quick decision had to be made. Would the theatre cancel the show? Or would they recast and push on for the Christmas season?
Enter Adriano. With an evening’s notice, Adriano Cappelletta stepped up to the enormous challenge of taking over the lead role — going from first read of the script to first performance in front of a paying audience within forty-eight hours.
We used every waking hour to rehearse with our new lead. And Adriano was cool through the whole process. His calm was infectious, and I had confidence the show still had legs, even though everything I practised with Glenn the last three weeks no longer applied. We were having to improvise, be flexible, and accept that the show we’d be opening with would be different from the one we planned.
Our first performance in front of an audience was also the first time Adriano did a full run from start to finish. He performed his entire part with the script in hand. Because the audience knew the backstory for why Adriano was now the lead instead of Glenn, the room felt electric. The audience knew we were in risky territory as performers which elevated the energy of our show. Anything could happen!
My experience on The Good Doctor taught me that giving up in the face of chaos and uncertainty is a sure way to miss out on amazing opportunities. Had Ensemble Theatre called off the show, all I’d remember is the disappointment. But because we pressed on, I now remember it as one of the most exhilarating experiences I had working in the theatre.
You can rehearse a play in three weeks. But you can rehearse the same play in two days if you need to. No matter the circumstances, an adaptable leader will press on to the goal.
Which brings me to the words of Paul the Apostle.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
Paul’s life was full of highs and extreme lows. But no matter the circumstances, his mission to preach Christ stayed the same. He knew that although his life was in constant flux, the Lord Jesus stayed the same. In Him, Paul was satisfied. Wherever Jesus took him, Paul had the ability to adapt for the sake of sharing the good news.
For children on school camp, there are many unexpected challenges. There’s the fear of sleeping in a cabin away from home. There’s the sudden change of routine. The activities might be hard and uncomfortable. But all these experiences are vitally important to learning the skill of being adaptable. Children need confidence in themselves to know they can change depending on their changing circumstances.
Nathan Wilson, Primary Pastor