Many of today’s leaders possess several important skills but limit their leadership potential by demonstrating a lack of flexibility. Extraordinary leadership requires emotional intelligence, collaboration skills and the ability to navigate change — all of which require flexibility. Inflexible leaders struggle to work effectively with others, are limited in their creativity, struggle with relationships and miss out on valuable opportunities. Flexibility is a skill that every leader must develop if they want to evolve into an extraordinary leader.

As a leader, how flexible are you? On a scale of one to 10, rate yourself. Would your team and co-workers agree with your rating?

Many leaders struggle in the area of flexibility. Additionally, some leaders believe that they are flexible but are unaware of their own rigidity. A leader’s lack of awareness of their own flexibility creates an invisible barrier to achieving their potential; it also creates frustration for the leader, their team members and their co-workers.

To effectively evaluate your own flexibility, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you usually get your way?
  • How often do people challenge your perspective?
  • Can you embrace discomfort in order to develop another person’s idea?
  • When other people speak, do you cut them off?
  • How do minor changes affect you?

With good intentions, inflexible leaders often force their agendas into action by steamrolling over others, closed off to ideas different from their own. This creates a team of compliant but disengaged employees. Team members and co-workers become exhausted by trying to share their ideas and eventually concede to the leader to avoid conflict. Their ownership and satisfaction in deliverables diminishes, and they start to resemble robots working in a day prison. These statements may sound harsh, but remember that people contribute their best work when they are encouraged to participate, have the freedom to make independent decisions and feel their ideas add value.

Additionally, rigid leaders will kill and/or stall projects when plans vary from their vision, and they become stressed when things don’t go their way. The inflexible leader uses force to create results, which degrades positive organizational environments. Unable to recognize the damage of rigidity, the leader continues with his or her original plan.

What Are the Behaviors of a Flexible Leader?

Flexible leaders understand the value of others’ ideas. They embrace change and alternate perspectives, because they appreciate diversity of thought and acknowledge the potential rewards of effective collaboration. They push themselves to exercise excellent listening skills, which validates their acceptance of new ideas and encourages others to share their opinions.

Flexible leaders accept change as part of leadership and adjust when adversity arises. When disappointment arises, flexible leaders reappraise the situation, find the learning opportunity in the situation and continue to focus on the objective. While change can be painful, it’s up to the leader to embrace flexibility and find the solution for any given challenge.

Ultimately, flexible leaders realize that what determines success is not the circumstances that present themselves or what people do or say, but how the leader responds in the face of adversity. Successful leaders collaborate with others and maintain focus when working outside of their comfort zone. As you develop yourself as a leader, challenge yourself to embrace change and exercise flexibility.