It’s possible that inflexibility may be hindering your leadership and learning to be flexible could change it. Why does flexibility matter for a leader? Simply said, even the greatest leader can’t control everything. Things happen that are completely out of our power to control, and our thriving—even simply staying afloat—depends on our capacity for flexibility.
Workplace flexibility is all about adapting to changing circumstances and expectations on the job. It requires the willingness to be open-minded and willing to change how work gets done and respond to challenges more quickly and easily. For a leader, it’s essential to be ahead of the curve, assessing and responding helpfully to the current and future situations.
Every business will face a certain level of unforeseen, unpredictable factors. The good news for your organization is that absorbing flexibility into your leadership style will create a sense of steadiness and security when the unexpected arises. In addition, the more you’re challenged, the more adept you become at adapting to new situations and solving problems as they emerge. Who benefits from it?
The team: When you actively become a more flexible leader, in addition to improving yourself, you’re also making your team better. When you listen and consider all possible perspectives, you show that you’re self-aware. You value others’ opinions, and this is generally returned by the team.
The business: The business, as a whole, benefits from your flexibility. When you are an early adapter, your team can adapt more quickly than your competitors. This gives you a long-run advantage.
Now more than ever before, leaders all over the world are facing constant change and complexity—of course, the pandemic has presented us all with new challenges, new circumstances, and new uncertainties in the workplace. Technology and political realities force change. Flexibility is a requirement. Because change is constant and inevitable, leaders must be flexible to succeed. In fact, in numerous studies of leadership success and failure, the inability to develop or adapt was the most frequently cited reason for career failure.
There are three types of flexibility that help leaders in adapting to change:
Cognitive flexibility is leveraging the ability to use different thinking strategies and mental frameworks. They’re able to incorporate different thinking strategies and mental frameworks into their planning, decision-making, and management of day-to-day work. They can simultaneously hold multiple scenarios in mind and can see when to shift and inject a change. This thinker exhibits quick, diverse thinking, is interested in developing new approaches, has an ability to develop and leverage new connections, and can work well across the organization, readily learning from experience and recognizing when old approaches don’t work, even if they are most comfortable with them.
Emotional flexibility harnesses the ability to vary one’s approach to dealing with emotions and those of others. Emotional flexibility creates comfort with the processes of transition, including grieving, complaining, anxiety, and resistance. Adapting to change requires give and take between the leader and those affected by the change. Without emotional flexibility, a leader will dismiss others’ concerns and emotions and shut down discussion.
Dispositional flexibility is the ability to remain optimistic but realistic. Leaders who display this flexibility operate from a place of optimism that’s open to information and facts. While acknowledging a bad situation and facing the facts they will simultaneously envision a better future. They are not pessimistic or defeatist, but they are not blindly positive either. They tolerate ambiguity and work well within it. They see change as opportunity instead of threat.
You can build your flexibility by proactively allowing changes you don’t have to make before outside changes are forced on you. For instance …
Dress code: One way that businesses offer flexibility is through a more laid-back dress code. Having a more relaxed dress code benefits employees by providing more comfort in wearing the clothes they want and giving them more freedom to express their individuality.
Autonomy over assignments: Giving employees freedom to decide when, where, and how to work raises morale and also may teach employees how to take initiative and improve leadership skills as they have the drive and motivation to complete projects on their own.
Work location: Many companies practice flexibility by letting their employees choose if they would like to work remotely or in the office. The pandemic caused us to realize there are benefits for both the business and the employee in this way.
Time off flexibility: Flexible businesses usually offer flexible or unlimited paid time off
(PTO) to their employees.
Flexible PTO: This involves allowing employees to choose when they use their time off. They may use their PTO hours for sick or vacation days.
Unlimited PTO: This is when employees can decide the amount of time they want off without consequence.
Employers can expect great benefits from adopting flexibility in the workplace. It lowers stress, improves productivity, increases employee loyalty, builds trust, develops more independence, and allows work-life balance.
Flexibility in leadership improves your leadership and your life.