One of the first things that new leaders need to realize is that not all team members respond to direction in the same way.
Leading a team to superior performance requires leaders to flex their natural leadership style to fit the individual and the situation.
Some situations call for task-oriented instruction and specific direction; others require the leader to involve the entire team in building and executing the best possible solution.
For example, when decisions need to be made under strict time constraints, a leader must be comfortable being decisive, moving quickly, and providing clear, precise directions on how the team needs to proceed.
In contrast, leaders will have the luxury of taking a more collaborative approach when there is time to involve others in the decision-making and action-planning process and build long-term support for a new initiative.
Increasing your flexibility as a leader will allow you to be more effective when working with diverse individuals and responding to a variety of situations.
In today’s fast-paced, rapidly changing, globally diverse business environment, flexibility is an absolute necessity.
Leaders must be able to respond nimbly and with great speed in an increasingly complex work environment.
While being able to assess the best leadership approach for every situation takes some time and experience, everyone operates with some degree of flexibility, and some leaders are naturally more flexible than others.
However, through self-awareness and hard work, leaders of all stripes can increase their level of flexibility, regardless of their natural style.
A leader’s ability to be flexible is primarily related to the personal relationships that he or she has with others.
Flexible leaders are able to draw people into the conversation and ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to share their views.
The leader is comfortable facilitating and contributing to the conversation rather than dominating it.
He or she is also willing to accept input and doesn’t get defensive when people offer alternative perspectives or disagree with the leader’s views.
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Here are ten ways to increase your personal level of flexibility:
- Diagnose Before You Respond – Make sure you take the time to examine the task, the needs of the situation, and the capabilities of the individuals involved. Then, choose the best way to respond to each one.
- Take Time Out – During the day, step back from your work and assess your approach to leading your team. Do you believe that you are using your time well and that people are committed to your mission? If the answer is “no,” stop and make some adjustments to your methods.
- Plan Ahead – Schedule time in your calendar to create your plan and share your vision with the team. Assess which areas would benefit from your team members assuming greater responsibility, and then help them set specific goals related to their areas of contribution.
- Clarify Expectations – Periodically review expectations with your team members. Be clear about what you expect from them in terms of performance and behavior, and ask them what they need from you.
- Select the Best People – Build a team of talented individuals who are trustworthy and reliable. Understand their knowledge, abilities, and talents, and then put those assets to work.
- Ask for Feedback – Ask your team members if they feel that their talents and abilities are being put to good use and what you could do differently to enable them to perform at their peak.
- Build Allies Within the Business – Identify others in the organization who are affected by the work of your team. Build strong relationships with those who can help, mentor, and support you in your efforts.
- Sharpen Your Facilitation Skills – Develop your ability to manage conflict and reach consensus in a group setting. Learn how to focus the group’s attention on the topics at hand and lead them to a mutually acceptable agreement.
- Manage Your Time Effectively – Anticipate likely scenarios and start working on projects early. Allow enough time for you and your team to learn, experiment, and solve problems together.
- Help Others Set Effective Goals – Ensure that your team’s individual goals clearly support the overall vision. All goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, aligned, realistic, and time-bound.
CMOE has been coaching leaders since 1978, and we have developed situational guidelines to help leaders improve their flexibility and the performance of their team in any situation.
Visit our page on Flexible Leadership for more information.