The Range of Acceptable Disequilibrium

I had the opportunity to study adaptive leadership during my fellowship year with Acumen and the concept of ROAD stuck with me.

ROAD, an acronym for the Range of Acceptable Disequilibrium is based on the premise that leadership is essentially the activity of creating change. It suggests that we all have a range of acceptable disequilibrium. Disequilibrium here represents the imbalance we experience when we challenge the belief systems that govern our status quo. It’s the amount of change we’re willing to put up with.

By it’s very nature, the process of change attempts to challenge our current understanding or worldview. There is a level of change where we don’t feel challenged (our status quo) and a level where it’s too controversial / uncomfortable where we outright reject change. Then there’s a range in between our comfort zone and rejection where the disequilibrium or imbalance is acceptable.

Leadership is about knowing what the range is and managing others through the range of acceptable disequilibrium. Push too hard and they reject you, push too little and they don’t change.