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Flexibility and Adaptability

T.D. Jakes, says, "If you are flexible enough in life, you can always keep moving forward!” and “a flexible person is a happy person.” Life repeatedly shows that to be true. If you can adapt to changing circumstances and be flexible to make the necessary adjustments, loosen up and go with the flow, you can raise your happiness exponentially. An inflexible attitude can derail your happiness and your destiny. Stop it now.Flexible leaders have the ability to change their plans to match the reality of the situation. This enables them to be productive, despite chaos or transition. To lead in tomorrow’s world, leaders must learn to receive ambiguity and uncertainty as the new normal. This is not just in the large ways, but the small, everyday activities that are subject to change.Flexibility is characterized by an open attitude–openness to new ideas, new ways of doing things, openness to the possibility that I might be wrong. The opposite of flexibility is rigidity or stubbornness. Zig Ziglar was a leader of great wisdom, and he said, “Be firm on principle, but flexible on method/” Today’s hyper-competitive, increasingly globalized world means you have to be flexible, or be completely out-paced.Being flexible doesn’t mean being so wishy-washy or inconsistent that you let anything go. You do need to be adaptable and resilient. However, to truly be an effective leader, you also need to be consistent and unwavering in your values. You have to balance these two, sometimes conflicting, traits. Hold on to your true core values and the mission of you and your organization. Commit yourself to standing firmly, when these are threatened. However, a truly effective leader blends this rigid commitment with flexibility. He or she flows with the changes in conditions he/she experiences to support the values and missions he holds dear.Some psychologists believe our ability to be adaptable is present from a very young age. In their book, “The Platinum Rule,” Tony Alessandra and Michael O'Connor describe adaptability as being made up of two distinct components: flexibility and versatility. Flexibility is your attitude; how willing are you to change? Versatility comes down to ability; are you actually capable of change? If we assume this two-part definition of adaptability, we see that it is something we significantly control.While we may naturally be prone to being adaptable (or not), we can consciously decide to be flexible in our ideas and expectations. Over time, this shift in our attitude will naturally lead us to become better at adjusting to the changes we'll all inevitably have to face.There are many benefits to being adaptable, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.You'll be more valuable to your company. The ability of an organization to adapt has been called the new competitive advantage. The same is true for individuals: employers increasingly want workers who can adapt to an ever-changing workplace. Someone who is adaptable is open to new ideas and doesn't need to do things just because "that's how they've always been done." They're able to anticipate changes and don't panic when things don't go according to plan.You'll be a better leader. People who are flexible excel as leaders. They earn the respect of their peers, inspire those around them to embrace change, and help even the most unanticipated transitions be manageable. Gary Yukl, and Rubina Mahsud write, "When a sudden, unusual event threatens to disrupt normal operations or to harm people or property, a rapid but appropriate response is needed to minimize the adverse effects for the organization. How well a leader handles these immediate crises an indicator of flexible and adaptive leadership." As a leader, if you're not able to change quickly, your actions could hurt your employees and your organization as a whole.You will handle your personal transitions more effectively. All of us have job and career transitions, household changes, etc. Being flexible will reduce your stress and smooth your path.You'll be more satisfied with your own life and less likely to feel hopeless. When you are flexible, you can tell yourself the truths that will make you satisfied and optimistic despite the unexpected changes that come your way. You know you always have control over yourself.You will be able to be more resilient in the face of adversity. Bad things happen to everyone. But flexible people take adversity in stride and refuse to focus on what was. Resilience will take you far in life. Dean Becker, president and CEO of Adaptive Learning Systems, writes, "More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom."So, what does a flexible, adaptable person look like?

  • They are open to change, having the will to face failure, take in on, and press forward.

  • They see opportunity where others see failure.

  • They are resourceful in the face of loss, always have a plan B.

  • They think ahead, always on the lookout for improvement.

  • They don't whine—they move on.

  • They talk to themselves and coach themselves through hard times

  • They don't blame. They’re not a victim to external influences because they’re proactive. To adapt to something new you must forego the old. Adaptable people don’t hold grudges or eschew blame needlessly but instead absorb, understand and move on.

  • They don’t covet the limelight—they just “gitter done.”

  • They are ever curious and searching for new truth and ideas.

  • They stay current.

  • They use systems.

  • They listen.

  • They are firm on their personal values, so they don’t fear change.

Flexible people are the happiest and most in demand. You can be one.

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