The Flexibility Tightrope


Courage And Risk

Great leaders are values-based, have their own perspectives and experience, bring their own creativity and originality to the table, yet it’s becoming ever more important for today’s leaders to be open to other perspectives, to be flexible and adaptable. So how do you have it both ways, where you can assert yourself as a leader, yet remain open and flexible? Below are ten guidelines for doing so.

Be Values-Based as You Remain Flexible.

1. Great leaders know what their values are and think and act based on their moral compass. Although flexibility is important, it should never compromise a leader’s moral compass.

2. Consider the reputation of the person/people who are introducing an idea or thought or suggestion which is against your better judgment. Do he/she/they have an agenda or ulterior motive for their position? What are the implications of their motivations?

Park the Emotions.

3. Sometimes new ideas and new ways of doing something pushes our buttons, and we might respond negatively because of that. Making flexibility a business rather than an emotional choice would better ensure you’re doing what’s-best-for-the-company, and others within the company other than yourself.

4. Sometimes the people we’re working with can push our buttons, and we might be more reticent to reject ideas and suggestions because of it. Hard as it might be, try not to make it personal. Park your emotions and history and look at just the data – ‘what are the facts and data behind the idea and its likelihood of success’ is a more important question than ‘what did he/she/they do to me in the past and what could she/he/they do to me now’?

5. Sometimes the way something is requested pushes our buttons, and we’re less likely to be open to a suggestion because of that. Look beyond the communication method and focus on the idea. Also consider being more open to new forms of communication, particularly social media cutting edge communication methods, which may reflect not just the opinions of one, but the crowd-sourced opinions of many.

Consider the Request Itself, and Its Best and Worst Case.

6. When you get beyond the values and emotions, consider the details of the request, and the potential up-sides and down-sides of maintaining the status quo, doing nothing. Sometimes the request for change doesn’t really impact anything or anybody significant, and it’s not worth standing against it, even if you’re uncomfortable with it. Conversely, sometimes a seemingly minor request for change has huge implications and should be blocked immediately, even if you wouldn’t conceptually object to it, and it doesn’t go against your values or push your buttons.

7. What is the thirty-second, thirty-minute, thirty-day, and thirty-year impact for being flexible about this request now?

8. What is the best case scenario should we go in this direction, and what is the worst case scenario?

Err Toward Flexibility, But Not Foolishly So.

9. Embrace the space just outside your comfort zone and err toward flexibility. Invite others around you to push the envelope and be brave and experimental, particularly when your flexibility invites new thinking and more collaboration.

10. With that said, good leaders know how to walk that balance, inviting ways to be flexible and ideas for doing new things, but the judgment to know when to stick with what’s already working, and to work with people who are honest, trustworthy and competent, with a pure agenda and a great track record.

The bottom line is that staying on the flexibility tightrope, involves continuous filtering of ideas, thoughts, people, strategies and execution. It is a journey for leaders at all levels.

If you’d like to hear specific stories about any of the conflicts above, or share one of your own, please e-mail us at


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