Leading with Flexibility: The Adaptable Leader’s Blueprint for Success

We all know that organisations are more likely to thrive when there are positive working relationships across teams. But creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect doesn’t happen automatically – it requires intention, empathy, and adaptability from its leaders.

This is especially true when collaborating with people with diverse perspectives, priorities or work styles. Adaptability becomes crucial for working together cohesively. Rather than demanding others conform to their preferences, adaptable leaders remain flexible and modify their approach to meet team members where they are.


What does leadership adaptability look like?

Firstly, it means tailoring communication styles to individuals. Being aware of how people prefer to receive information and customising your strategy to accommodate their preferences where possible will get more effective results. For some, quick check-ins work best. Others prefer detailed documentation or scheduled one-to-one meetings. Small adjustments to your style can work wonders.

It also involves flexing your management approach to motivate each person. Some employees thrive on lots of recognition and celebrating wins. Others prefer direct critical feedback to precisely know how to develop and progress. Do you know what your team members need to stay motivated?

Partnering well with complementary working styles also relies on adaptability. If you tend to be highly analytical, teaming with a creative big picture thinker can generate innovation and challenge your way of thinking. But remember this may mean flexing to their more fluid work schedule.

Additionally, adaptable leaders allow the team to influence decisions rather than only driving top-down outcomes. They modify their approach to include more collaboration and ensure everyone’s voices are heard.

Adaptable leaders also help each individual develop based on their unique strengths and interests rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. They observe untapped potential and where possible, restructure or reallocate responsibilities accordingly, adapting roles around emerging talent.


Demonstrating adaptability shows respect

Adapting to individual needs with openness makes people feel valued and drives engagement. Rigidity will discourage buy-in over time and that can lead to resentment.

Adaptable leadership also encourages innovation and more diverse thinking. People gain confidence to experiment and suggest solutions knowing they’ll be heard. Soon you’ll be surprised how often fresh ideas emerge.

Additionally, adaptability builds trust that can support teams to navigate uncertain times. Strong relationships and solid bonds built in good times carry teams through turbulence.


Developing Your Adaptability Muscles

So how can leaders strengthen their adaptability?

Firstly, you need to model it consistently. Demonstrate your openness to improve and foster a growth mindset whilst balancing the need to set clear standards. Decide when to stretch and when providing more directive leadership matters more. When the time is right, be open and authentic about your own journey – it can be hugely inspiring.

Be proactive about building trust. Being candid requires you to care personally whilst challenging directly. Applaud people’s efforts while redirecting tactfully when needed. Share control and decision-making where you can to increase others’ investment in outcomes.

Finally, celebrate small early wins when people demonstrate flexibility. Break large, intimidating programmes into smaller, iterative steps. This gives you an opportunity for celebration as well as course-correcting if needed. Goals and targets stay achievable as they are reviewed and adapted regularly. If your team feels supported and able to adapt as they go, their momentum and productivity will grow too.

Adaptable leadership is not easy. It requires resisting the temptation to control outcomes and instead empowering others with trust and flexibility. But the rewards it unlocks for organisational culture make the effort more than worthwhile.


Want to know more?

Sarah Harvey is Founding Director of Savvy Conversations Ltd and author of the highly acclaimed book “Savvy Conversations: A practical framework for effective workplace relationships.”

Website: https://savvyconversations.co.uk

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/savvysarah

X (Formerly Twitter): @SarahSavvySarah

Instagram: savvysarah


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