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The Rise of Flexible Leadership – Adapting, Evolving, and Succeeding

The sudden and widespread disruption caused by the pandemic served as a catalyst that has forced leaders to swiftly adjust their plans, strategies, and expectations while gaining significant importance in leading people. Traditional leadership approaches often relied on presence, stability and predictability, but the recent challenges have emphasised the need for leaders who can adapt leadership styles, strategies and behaviours and evolve, and guide their teams through uncertainty.

While embracing change, being open-minded, and encouraging innovation, flexible leaders also need to appreciate that different circumstances require different approaches, and should be willing to step out of their comfort zones to find solutions.

As a leader of remote or hybrid working teams‘, I believe you must first be aware of your individual team members working situations and ask yourself a series of questions:

  • Do I give my team members equal attention whether present or remote?
  • Do I know the conditions and situation in which they each are working? 
  • Do I make the appropriate allowances for their individual situations?
  • Do I build in social networking to our online events?
  • Do I understand the silence and noise in the virtual team? 
  • Do I respect time boundaries in the working day?

Remote work, economic uncertainty, and changing customer needs required leaders to navigate uncharted waters. Organisations that had flexible leaders in place were better positioned to adapt to remote work setups, maintain employee morale, and swiftly pivot their operations to address new demands. As we progress forward we are experiencing that employees are more in the driving seat and demanding flexible working arrangements, only yesterday 31 May 2023 2000 Google employees staged a walkout in part because of a “return to office policy”, while other reports confirm flexible working contracts are more appealing and important to new hires in the decision making process.

Key Skills and Behaviours of Flexible Leaders

Flexible leaders are comfortable with change and possess the ability to quickly adjust their plans and strategies. They demonstrate resilience, embracing challenges as opportunities for growth, and encouraging their teams to do the same.

  1. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Understanding and empathising with the needs, concerns, and emotions of team members is crucial. Flexible leaders foster an inclusive and supportive environment where individuals feel valued and heard, both personally and professionally.
  2. Effective Communication: Clear and transparent communication is paramount in times of uncertainty. Flexible leaders are skilled at delivering information, actively listening to their teams, and providing timely feedback. They ensure that messages are tailored to the audience and are delivered with empathy and understanding.
  3. Collaboration and Team Building: Building cohesive and agile teams is a fundamental aspect of flexible leadership. Leaders encourage collaboration, foster a sense of unity, and promote a culture of trust and psychological safety. They leverage the diverse strengths of team members to drive innovation and creative problem-solving.
  4. Strategic Thinking: Flexible leaders possess strong strategic thinking skills, enabling them to anticipate future trends, identify opportunities, and make informed decisions. They continuously gather data, seek input from various sources, and adapt their strategies accordingly.
  5. Continuous Learning and Growth Mindset: Flexible leaders understand that learning is a lifelong journey. They actively seek out new knowledge, stay updated with industry trends, and encourage their teams to embrace a growth mindset. They prioritise personal and professional development for themselves and their employees.
  6. Decision-Making Agility: Flexible leaders are adept at making quick and effective decisions in dynamic environments. They gather relevant information, consult key stakeholders, and consider multiple perspectives before taking action.
  7. Resilience and Optimism: Flexible leaders maintain a positive outlook in the face of adversity. They inspire their teams to persevere and find opportunities amidst challenges. They promote a culture of resilience, where failures are seen as learning experiences and stepping stones to success.
  8. Technically Savy: Flexible leaders embrace technology and leverage it to drive innovation, streamline processes, and enhance communication. They stay updated with the latest digital tools and trends, understanding their potential to improve organisational agility and efficiency.
  9. Visionary Leadership: Flexible leaders have a clear vision for the future and effectively communicate it to their teams. They inspire and motivate.

In summary flexible leadership is no longer a nice to have skill but an essential set of skills and behaviours to embrace the changing landscape of work. In being a great flexible leader we can include the whole team, take on resources from more diverse backgrounds and embrace a culture of flexible working life to suit the diverse needs of team members.

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Karen, leveraging 25 years of international expertise, is your go-to HR consultant and speaker for organisational and people development for Future Work.

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June 1, 2023


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