Your ability to show adaptability and flexibility is essentially a part of your emotional intelligence – in fact, you may develop this trait as you advance in leadership, but why wait? Adaptability and flexibility shows your team and your superiors that you can act in a way that encourages change at all times, in a way that makes it seem as if you hardly noticed the bumps. A great leader can be many things, but most great leaders do not fall apart when change and adversity show up. Let's talk about ways to show adaptability and flexibility.
First, you must act with confidence in day-to-day challenges. In the corporate world, we've probably seen all managers who spend most of the day in a bad mood, cursing every change that comes his or her way. By simply smiling and taking it on the chin, you can show your team that the everyday stuff is not going to keep you from moving forward. This self-confidence will instill confidence in the team – they'll feel comfortable knowing that you will react positively to even the biggest challenges.
Confidence is one thing, but how about the action? When multiple demands appear, do not be the leader that shuts down. You've got to show first that you're willing to deal with multiple demands. This could mean that you welcome interruption during your workday or maintain an "open door" policy anywhere, from home to work. Then you've got to show that you're able to deal with multiple demands. Your ability will show if you know when to delegate, when to prioritize, and when to stop everything and handle the problem in front of you. Again, your team will gain confidence from your willingness and ability.
We can not discuss challenges and multiple demands without addressing shifting priorities. Let's face it: some organizations thrive on starting out in one direction and ending up in another. It may be due to market conditions, competitors, or indecisive upper management – but whatever the cause, you should react appropriately to shifting priorities. What is an appropriate reaction? Look at it as a challenge and show it to your team as such. Commend the energy and drive of the group and insure that the same energy be shifted to the new priority. Do not let the team see you sweat a new priority, either. Be confident in their ability to handle it and offer assistance as things move forward.
Ambiguity is another issue that will show your adaptability and flexibility. Many people do not function well in unclear situations, and leaders are not immune to this disability. As a leader, it's your duty to bring organization to chaos, to make roles and the path forward clear when things are a bit cloudy. This is where your spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship will be useful, as well as your ability to lead courageously and ask for further vision or direction. If you're the one who sets the vision, be clear about it even if the area of execution becomes unclear.
One of the best things to remember about adaptability and flexibility is that you must operate outside of your comfort zone. We've talked about this in courageous leadership – you may have to act when you're slowly uncomfortable, listening to that inner voice or finishing up the facts that are in front of you. But here's another secret: when you've got to adapt, bring your team into the picture. We all have different skills and an unclear situation will give you the opportunity to rely on the skills of your team.
How can you show adaptability and flexibility every day? In family situations, take some time to go with the flow – ruling a family as a Type A is probably not a good idea, so prove that you can be flexible. Community organizations test our adaptability and flexibility every day: they are the best example of shifting priorities and multiple demands. Take the time to show that you can handle it by taking on new assignments or delegating when it's necessary.
If you demonstrate that you are motivated, inspired, and able to act during constraints, frustrations, obstacles, and changes, your team will have no trouble following.