The Leadership Principle of Flexibility

Leadership: Have you got enough flexibility in your behaviour to adapt until you get the right outcome?

I found this old quote in my notebook yesterday:

“When a tree is growing, it is tender and pliant. But when it is dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death’s companions.

Andrei Tarkovsky

I’d kept the quote because it reminded me of one of my key leadership principles:

Have sufficient flexibility of behaviour so that you can adapt what you do until you get the right outcome

I can’t emphasise enough how important this principle of flexibility is and yet it’s often something that people struggle with at work. It seems that there are four main reasons why people aren’t more flexible in their approach to things at work:

  1. They’re concerned that changing the way they do things will be seen as a sign of weakness.
  2. They’re worried that actually they only know one way of doing things, and without that they’d feel helpless.
  3. They’re drawing too much on one of their other strengths (such as persistence and doggedness).
  4. There’s an important point of principle and they are concerned that trying a different way might compromise that.

And yet – if the way you’re currently doing it is NOT getting the right results, you have to ask, when is it time to try something else?


Try these simple steps first if you’d like to have a go at being more flexible in your leadership:

  1. How clear are you about what you’re trying to achieve?
  2. How do you know how well or not you’re doing? (What’s the evidence you can see, hear or touch?)
  3. How many strategies, or routes to your objective, have you already tried? (Hint, if it’s not more than one, then you may need to be a bit more flexible!)

One silly exercise I often set for people who want to practise being flexible, is to ask them to drive or travel home from work by a different route each day for a week. Have a go if you want, and see how resourceful it makes you feel!


Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers: booklet now available on Amazon

If you found this article useful, you might want to grab a copy of my latest short eBooklet from Amazon. Please use the buttons or image below to see a preview or buy your copy: