Flexibility (Leadership Essentials)

medium_3627952445There is an old saying, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will never get bent out of shape.”

This may or may not be hard to believe, but I like to be in control of my life and the situations I am in. I know, big surprise.

As I have grown and aged, I have learned that flexibility is crucial in life and leadership. That lesson has not always been easy nor pleasant. In the times when I have been the most flexible with people and situations, I have found much less stress and turmoil and a whole lot more unity, peace, and effectiveness.

In an earlier post in this series, I wrote about “resolve” and the importance of having a set direction and being undeterred in focus. In talking about being flexible, I am not saying that core values or vision are to be flexible and fluid. We each must have that thing that keeps us centered, a compass that guides us through ambiguity and trials.

Flexibility in leadership is about methods, plans, personalities, programs, and even structure to a degree. As leaders, we are in constant contact with people. If not, we probably aren’t really leading anyone. People have ideas, opinions, and moods. These have to be navigated well in order to achieve effectiveness.

We all have goals and objectives that we are striving to attain. The problem that happens way too many times, a control minded manager/supervisor will set things in place in a way that is rigid and restrictive. Study after study have shown that people feel the most safe within a flexible environment with clear expectations and guiding boundaries. As soon as those boundaries become too restrictive, the sense of ownership, community, and value begin to fade into insecurity, fear, and suspicion. What should be a unified effort toward a common goal becomes a divisive battle for control. The ironic thing is, the more freedom you give within context and clear expectations, the more productive and effective each individual becomes. In turn, the whole organization benefits.

Micro-managers will never instill a sense of satisfaction and partnership with others. Instead, they turn other off, push them away and end up with the very thing they were trying to avoid – disloyalty, ineffectiveness, and lack of productivity.

The more flexible leaders, the ones who encourage free thinking and ideas, are the ones who get the most done. The ones who let those around them shine and excel in their giftings and talents, those are the leaders who are effective and revered.

As we lead others forward, our flexibility with people and situations instills a sense of safety because each person feels valued. It also removes the fear of what will happen if things don’t go as perfectly planned. Flexibility in leadership puts minds at ease knowing that whatever happens, the leader will adapt and adjust accordingly without a meltdown.

Now, flexibility is no excuse for laziness and lack of planning. In fact, a truly effective and flexible leader will plan more as they try to foresee multiple scenarios and they plan as possible for each one. In the moment, when things arise unexpectedly, the flexible leader is able to handle it because they are not getting bent out of shape.

People want to follow a leader that is confident and stable. They don’t want to be with someone who overreacts emotionally or gets paralyzed by change or the unexpected. They look up to those who value them and their life. Flexibility gives this to a leader. The ones who always seem to know what is happening and what to do next are usually the most flexible, but with a strong resolve and inner compass showing them where to go through the cloud and ambiguity of life.

Flexibility is so important because life is uncertain. No matter how well we plan, no matter how much effort we give, no matter how hard we try to control, things happen that we can’t. Surprises come. The unexpected occurs. If we haven’t made the decision to be flexible and roll with those unforeseen moments and occurrences then it will be painful and could even end being devastating.

Flexibility within the parameters of core values and vision leads to effectiveness, loyalty, and partnership. Flexibility is an essential of leadership.

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