To be effective and successful today requires continually learning and developing skills. This is as true for leadership growth as it is for personal development. As a business owner or leader, part of that growth includes the ability to embrace flexibility, which--particularly in recent months--has become more of a condition than an option. Uncertainty is the new normal and adaptation is the new black. Here are some big and small ways you can flex your flexibility muscle to become a more effective leader.
1. Bend the Rules.
In Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino's book Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life, she proposes the eight principles of "rebel leadership." She describes these rebel leaders as people who break rules to explore new ideas and create positive change. On the basis of her research, Gino suggests that leaders encourage rebellion in the workplace, as it may lead to a more fulfilling professional and personal life. And there is no better way to lead than by example.
If you are a strict rule-follower, take a step back and look at whether there are protocols you are willing and able to relax, or processes that might be due for a change. If you are like many of the subjects Gino studies, breaking rules and tradition could be the key to success.
2. Don't Just Say No.
As founder and CEO of my company, I don't seek out "yes men." In fact, I actively surround myself with people who have original thoughts and who aren't afraid to challenge the norm, their colleagues, or me.
As a leader who has found success by following your own instincts, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to reject someone else's perspective when it doesn't align with your own. When you feel that urge, try to ignore it, at least temporarily. Asking questions and making an effort to workshop ideas, rather than simply disagreeing with or rejecting them, will yield much better results and rapport.
3. Change Your Personal Routine.
Wearing the same outfit every day is a proven strategy for combating decision fatigue; I'm not arguing with Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Albert Einstein about that. But changing up your daily routine once in awhile has benefits, too. Take commuting, for instance; you take the same route so often you don't even take notice of what you're passing along the way anymore. Going through the motions like this extends to the rest of the workday. Try shaking up your morning routine to set a trend that continues throughout the day. Introducing variety may reinvigorate you and inspire new ideas.
4. Embrace Change.
Opportunity is often on the other side of flexibility. Imagine you receive a request from a potentially huge client that wants to tap you for a major project that could put your business on the map, but it would require developing something that is not your core product. What do you do? Well, you probably didn't get where you are today by resisting change--most entrepreneurs would probably define themselves as early adopters, an archetype known for celebrating innovation. So you embrace it (or at least consider it).
5. Be a Chameleon.
People often look to the boss to set the tone for a conversation or meeting, but part of being a good leader is adapting to the personalities of those around you. Meeting someone at their communication comfort level creates an opportunity for a better, more productive dialogue. This is in no way a suggestion to change your personality or opinions, but rather to regulate the tone of a conversation depending on the person with whom it occurs.
Being flexible means anticipating and being prepared to change direction on a dime to complement the reality of any situation. As our reality is changing day by day, working toward being a more flexible leader is a valuable use of your energy.