Adaptive Leadership at NYU Silver

In the 2016 spring semester, Clinical Associate Professor and Katherine & Howard Aibel Executive-in-Residence Linda Lausell Bryant worked with Adaptive Leadership expert and consultant Marc Manashil, MSW, MPA, to launch the Adaptive Leadership Fellowship program with an inaugural cohort of 13 fellows. Funded by the B. Robert Williamson Jr. Foundation, the program enables students to learn about the adaptive framework more intensively and directly apply what they learned in the context of their fieldwork placement agencies. In doing so, they can provide concrete benefits to those organizations and the clients they serve while learning skills that can be applied to a whole new set of organizations after graduation.

The practice of adaptive leadership is about helping organizations confront challenges they have been unable to face, and increasing the likelihood that people learn, participate in solutions, and make the adjustments necessary to achieve progress (i.e. adapt). Adaptive Leadership is also about enhancing awareness of other perspectives and recognizing that we operate in the context of a larger system of people who each bring a unique viewpoint based on their experiences, values, family, culture, and beliefs. The adaptive framework provides a set of tools to help better understand that system and how we can catalyze change within it.

The Adaptive Leadership Fellowship included:

  • In-person seminars featuring key concept review, large group discussions and small case consultation groups.
  • Application of the adaptive framework to gain a comprehensive understanding of the agency and its challenges in delivering services to children, youth and families.
  • Needs assessments leading to the development of personal projects designed to meet the challenges outlined in students' agency diagnostic.
  • Fellow presentations at seminars of the agency challenge(s) they sought to address and their proposed interventions, with progress reports provided at subsequent sessions.
  • Peer-to-peer feedback to refine intervention plans.
  • Preparatory assignments: readings, written exercises, and presentations on agency challenges and proposed responses.
  • Feedback on written assignments to help fellows identify the adaptive challenge and consider intervention options.
  • Group phone calls with fellows in between seminars to discuss questions and progress.
  • Evening training to field instructors to assist in supporting fellows in their learning and project interventions.
  • A colloquium featuring presentations by the fellows to share what they had learned with faculty, students, administrators and the broader NYU community. 

In addition to the fellowship, Adaptive Leadership concepts were integrated into the the Silver School's MSW Practice III class sections focused on micro/macro practice. They were also taught in Dr. Lausell Bryant's Executive Leadership in the Not-for-Profit Sector post-master's certificate program. NYU Silver is the only social work school integrating adaptive leadership into its curriculum. The program has been refunded and will be recruiting a second cohort of fellows this academic year.  

About the B. Robert Williamson Jr. Foundation
                                                                                                                   The B. Robert Williamson, Jr, Foundation was established in 2012 in memory of Robert Williamson - "RW" - to honor his vitality, insatiable curiosity, and passion for life. ln order to embody Robert's optimism for life, the Foundation provides financial support in the form of charitable contributions to non-profit organizations that primarily focus on the education and empowerment of young people.