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How to Be a Flexible Leader: Strategies for Adapting to Change and Building Strong Teams

leadership resilience teamwork Apr 04, 2023

How to Be a Flexible Leader


Why Is Being Flexible Important as a Leader?

Being flexible is important as a leader because it enables you to adapt to changing circumstances and respond to unexpected challenges. As a leader, you need to be able to adjust your plans and strategies based on new information, shifting market conditions, or unforeseen events––all things the last few years have thrown at us. Here are some ways being flexible makes you a better leader.


Adapt to Changing Situations

Being flexible enables leaders to quickly adjust to changing circumstances and make decisions in a timely manner. No two days are alike, and some will require adaptability as your team swivels to meet deadlines or new projects from clients. When you approach your job from with flexibility, your expectations are easily managed when changes arise.

On the flip side, inflexibility can harm leadership and team effectiveness. Leaders who aren't flexible may be resistant to change, making it difficult for the team to adapt to new situations or respond to unexpected challenges. They are often less open to feedback and alternative viewpoints, leading to poor communication and collaboration within the team.

Team members suffer because their ideas and perspectives are not valued and they may become disengaged and less motivated to contribute to the team's goals. In response, a team likely struggles with innovation and the ability to find creative solutions to problems.


Build Strong Relationships with Your Team

Flexibility plays an important role in building trust with your team as it demonstrates your willingness to listen, adapt and collaborate with them. When team members feel that their leader is flexible and open to their ideas, they are more likely to trust them and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns.

It also allows leaders to communicate effectively with a diverse range of people and adapt their communication style to members at all levels of their teams.


Promote Creativity and Innovation

A flexible leader is open to new ideas and perspectives, which can lead to innovative solutions and fresh strategies. Being a workplace that embraces a culture of creativity brings great rewards!

As a leader, you can encourage experimentation and risk-taking by allowing your team to be creative and then working together to implement their ideas.


What Allows Good Leaders to Be Flexible?

Good leaders who are flexible possess a combination of emotional intelligence, self-awareness, learning agility, open-mindedness, communication skills, and strategic thinking. By prioritizing these traits, they can create a more adaptable, innovative, and successful team.



Good leaders who are self-aware understand their own strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to adapt their approach based on their own limitations and the needs of their team. When you know yourself, you can better adapt your style and approach to different situations in your role as a leader.


Emotional Intelligence

When a person has a high emotional intelligence, they are better able to recognize and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. This means they are more adaptable and flexible in their approach.

Empathy and understanding are key components of effective leadership, and they help to truly connect you with team members and navigate conflicts. 


Flexibility in Decision-Making

Making a decision should always involve flexibility. It's important to consider different perspectives and options because it ensures that everyone's voice is heard and that diverse perspectives are taken into account. What do you get when you are in-tune to the different voices in your organization? A more inclusive and supportive work environment!

Making well-informed decisions is important, but getting stuck in analysis paralysis can be counterproductive. To make sure you don't get stuck, set a specific deadline for making the decision, and commit to sticking to it.

Then prioritize the most important information and focus on gathering and analyzing that information first. Next, set decision-making frameworks, such as pros and cons or cost-benefit analysis, to help organize and prioritize information and make a well-informed decision.

Be sure to seek input and feedback from team members or colleagues who have relevant expertise or experience and trust your instincts! Finally accept that not every decision will be perfect and that mistakes will happen. Use mistakes as an opportunity to learn and improve decision-making skills in the future.


Strategies for Being a More Flexible Leader

Want a few strategies for being more flexible in your leadership role? Try some of these tactics.


Understanding Your Team

Listen actively to team members and colleagues, and be open to their ideas and perspectives. This can help to build trust and respect, and foster a more collaborative and inclusive work environment. It also means you know your team members' strengths and weaknesses inside and out so you know where they will excel.

There are plenty of techniques for understanding your team's work styles and you can start by observing how your team members work and communicate with one another. You can also conduct a survey to gather information about your team's work styles. Ask questions about their communication preferences, work environment preferences, and collaboration preferences.

Another tactic is to use personality assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or DISC, to gain insight into your team's work styles and communication preferences. It's always a good idea to hold regular one-on-one meetings with team members to discuss their work styles and preference and facilitate team-building exercises that focus on communication and collaboration. 

Above all else, don't be afraid to ask for feedback from team members about how you can better support their work styles and preferences. This can help to build trust and respect, and create a more supportive work environment.


Adapting Your Leadership Style

There are many different leadership styles, and each style has its own strengths and weaknesses. Here's an overview of some common leadership styles:

  • Autocratic: An autocratic leader makes decisions without input from their team members. They tend to be very directive and have a high degree of control over their team.
  • Democratic: A democratic leader involves their team members in the decision-making process. They tend to be collaborative and seek input and feedback from their team.
  • Laissez-Faire: A laissez-faire leader provides little direction or guidance to their team. They tend to be hands-off and allow their team members to make their own decisions.
  • Servant: A servant leader focuses on serving the needs of their team members. They tend to be empathetic, compassionate, and focused on building strong relationships.
  • Transformational: A transformational leader inspires and motivates their team members to achieve their goals. They tend to be visionary and have a strong sense of purpose.
  • Transactional: A transactional leader focuses on setting goals and providing rewards or punishments based on performance. They tend to be very results-oriented and focused on achieving specific outcomes.
  • Charismatic: A charismatic leader has a strong personality and a compelling vision. They tend to be very persuasive and able to inspire their team members.

Adapting your leadership style to different situations is important for meeting the needs of your team, demonstrating flexibility, achieving better results, and building trust. By being open-minded and willing to adjust your approach, you can create a more effective and productive work environment for your team.

But how do you know what style to use? This process requires a thorough understanding of the situation, the team, and the desired outcome. To start, consider the nature of the situation and the level of urgency. Is it a routine task, a crisis, or a long-term project? Different situations may require different leadership styles.

Then think about the the needs, strengths, and weaknesses of your team members. Are they experienced or inexperienced? Do they need guidance or autonomy? Are they motivated or demotivated? Your leadership style should be tailored to meet the needs of your team.

It's also important to think about what outcome you want and the goals you want to achieve. Is it a short-term goal or a long-term vision? Different leadership styles may be more effective in achieving different outcomes.

Finally, what is your own leadership style and your strengths and weaknesses as a leader?  Are you naturally more autocratic or democratic? Are you comfortable with taking risks or do you prefer to be more cautious?

Based on these factors, you can determine which leadership style is most appropriate for the situation.


Leading Through Change

Change management can be a complex process, and there are several challenges that organizations may encounter when trying to implement changes. Some of the most common challenges of change management include an overall resistance to change, poor communication, lack of employee involvement, inadequate resources, and no clear plan.

There are several techniques you can utilize to lead through change effectively. To start, make sure your vision is clear from the beginning and that it is compelling, which will then empower and involve employees.

Be prepared for resistance to change and address it proactively, while also monitoring progress and adapting your approach as needed based on feedback and results. 

The most important way to lead through change? Lead by example by modeling the behavior you want to see in others! Stay positive, stay engaged, and stay focused on the vision and goals of the change.

Change is a natural way of life. When you can positively adapt, you are naturally building resilience in yourself and your team!



Flexibility is an essential quality for effective leadership. By being adaptable, empowering and engaging employees, fostering innovation, building resilience, and improving communication, flexible leaders can navigate change and uncertainty more effectively, leading to greater success for themselves and their organizations.


Actionable Takeaways

Becoming a more flexible leader requires a combination of self-awareness, open-mindedness, and intentional practice––but how do you accomplish all those things? Start by building self-awareness about your own leadership style and tendencies. Identify your strengths and areas for improvement, and seek feedback from others to gain a better understanding of how you are perceived.

Practice listening actively to your team members and other leaders, seeking to understand their perspectives and needs. Don't be afraid to embrace change as an opportunity for growth and learning. 

Adopt a growth mindset, and cultivate a positive attitude towards change and adaptability. And remember to reflect regularly on your leadership approach, identifying what is working well and where you could improve. 


Final Thoughts

Being a leader does not mean you've reached the peak of your career and your growth is finished. In fact, it's the opposite and continuing to develop your skills is of utmost importance. 

With that understanding, give yourself grace when it comes to perfecting your flexibility skills. Adapting to change and new challenges is hard––even for leaders. 

Are you looking for more ways to become a better leader? A great way to start is our Leadership Foundations course! Our premium intro course designed to build your leadership toolbox with foundational and transformational skills completely for free!

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