The Intelligence to Adapt: A lesson from the Peter Beardsley story
But times have changed.
What might have ‘worked’ and been acceptable then, is no longer acceptable today. This was something that Beardsley failed to grasp. In trying to prepare young professionals for their profession he drew on what had worked when he was in their position; he tried to imitate the conditions that generated his success and failed to recognise that both the game (well those who play the game) and context has changed.
It is a common mistake and one made by many leaders.
The need to recognise that ‘what got you here’ will ‘not get you to where you need to be’ is easier written (or said) than practised. Smart leaders continually evolve and they recognise that a fundamental part of contemporary leadership is to understand the changing context and adapt accordingly. This is seldom easy and may not be ‘liked’ but it is entirely necessary.
Evolutionary biology teaches us that adapting to changing circumstances requires knowing what to keep from the past that which will be helpful going forward; knowing what to discard – that which will no longer be helpful as we move forward and knowing what needs to be created in order to meet the changing circumstances.
Understanding what to keep, discard and create in times of change and uncertainty is a foundational block in building the capacity to adapt. This holds true at both a personal as well a corporate or collective level. Preparing others to live in the future will most certainly require adaptive mindsets and accompanying skillsets – something that Beardsley failed to appreciate. Times change and with that so do mindsets, values and behaviour. Some of this might not sit well with us but nonetheless, it needs to be understood, appreciated and embraced or suffer the consequences of becoming obsolete, out of touch or worse, as Peter Beardsley has found out to his cost.
It is sad for he was a tremendous player who often saw things on the football field that others couldn’t. He was a clever player with great skill and yet he was incapable of transferring that on-field versatility into his post-playing career scenario; one that is shaped by a different context.
It is a lesson for leaders everywhere.