Leaders need some flexibility so they can reach their goals. Whether you are leading teams or projects you will have a vision of the results, a plan to get there and the ability to adjust to circumstances that arise along the way. The secret to being successful is having the right amount of flexibility. There is a spectrum from very rigid to very pliant and we all fall along it in different places on each aspect of our lives.
A week ago my college aged son had shoulder surgery and he cannot use his left arm at all for the near future. Many people would sit around, feeling sorry and do nothing because of the limitations. He takes a different approach to it, he is very careful of his injured should but he looks at each situation in terms of what can he do not what can’t he do. This is a great mindset for striking the right balance in flexibility.
As leaders there are things we must hold firm to like our vision, our passion and our integrity. However, we need to be adaptable to new opportunities, new ways to reach our goals, and new resources that can help us move forward. When we create a plan there must be room for change and adjustments. Too often a leader builds a plan and will not deviate from it even when it is doomed to fail. This is blind allegiance and there is no room for that in a leader’s world.
When moving forward towards a dream or vision leaders must be willing to listen and change based on the input of their team. Others will see opportunities or come up with ideas that will move us forward quicker or more efficiently. Allowing that change to take place is critical. What a leader must avoid is giving up all control over the vision. If the leader becomes too pliant then the group can pull the team in a new and different direction which may not meet the original vision. Turning everything over without staying in control of the vision can lead to disaster.
Flexibility allows you to accommodate the needs of your team and adjust for obstacles or challenges. When you are able to adapt your plan to the needs of the team, the team will buy into it because they now have a piece of it. Obstacles and challenges require a change in approach where flexibility will lead to more innovative solutions. Flexibility in methods builds buy-in and creates an environment conducive to innovation.
Here are some questions to ask to maintain your flexibility balance:
- Is this idea/opportunity true to my vision for the results?
- Could this be a better way to get things done?
- Will this help us reach our goals while allowing the team to personalize their efforts?
- Can this meet the goals of the vision as well as meet the needs of the team?
- What would happen if this adjustment is made?
- How can we work around this obstacle or challenge?
- Will this make the end results even better?
Think of a slinky, like the one pictured here. They hold their over all shape yet to move forward they bend, twist and adjust to get to the destination. As a leader that kind of flexibility will help you succeed. Hold true to your vision, passion and integrity while adapting to the needs and ideas of those on your team. Stretch yourself to learn more, do more and go places you never thought possible.
How do you work on your flexibility? Share your best practices in the comments below. I would love to learn new techniques.