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Why good leaders must be flexible and adaptable

All good leaders must be flexible and adaptable. Leaders who think they know everything better than anyone in the organization may fail. The best leaders learn from others and adapt their plans to the changing environment. They need to turn when necessary, but they will stick to their core values. Here are three ways for successful leaders to succeed through flexibility and adaptability:

  1. Overcome challenges by learning: Every time they start to achieve their goals, each team encounters obstacles. Leaders must overcome these challenges and help their employees and organizations succeed. The best way for any leader to overcome the challenge is to take a step back and see what works and what doesn't. This is a skill called learning agility, which is a key skill for all leaders because they cannot be expected to know how to do everything. They must “unify” to learn how to succeed. The best leaders institutionalize their learning within the organization by guiding their teams to regularly assess how they work, especially after major events. By formally collecting their teams and discussing what works and what doesn't, leaders can lay the groundwork for adjusting their approach and improving future success. Large companies like General Electric achieve this by institutionalizing GE “exercise” workshops, and the US Army achieves this through “post-action assessments”. Whatever it is called, the rules of institutionalized learning are the key to leadership success, and successful leaders adjust the knowledge they have learned so that they can continually improve their goals.
  2. Use the appropriate leadership style: Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Specialist Daniel Goleman outlines six key leadership styles. After extensive research, he concluded that there is no one of the best leadership styles. Leaders must be flexible in adapting to the style that suits the situation and organization. In some cases, democratic styles work best when time is tight and information can be shared; however, in other situations such as crisis, command styles may be better suited to make quick decisions and get out of danger. Therefore, the best leaders will be flexible, moving from one style to another to best suit their situation and their team.
  3. Adjust the plan according to the changing situation: Planning is an important part of any successful team effort; however, no plan is perfect and leaders must be flexible in adapting the plan to a changing environment. Nothing is constant, and today's changes are more rapid and frequent than ever before. The best leaders plan for the future and emergencies; however, they also know that when the planning assumptions are no longer valid, the plan must be adjusted. Although the plan may change, leaders will still try to align with their core values. Therefore, they will make appropriate adjustments and move on without losing their basic beliefs and values.

This is just three ways to show that leaders must be flexible and adaptable. Effective leaders are always aligned with their operating environment. Sometimes this is called situational awareness. They evaluate the information they can get and adjust their methods, styles and plans to succeed, but remain loyal to their values. While leaders need to show unremitting efforts to achieve their goals, they must also be flexible and adapt to the way they accomplish their tasks. Knowing when to stand firm and when to be flexible is the art of leadership.

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