A rigid mindset is a lot like a taut rubber band. To all outward appearances, it may seem tidy and controlled. Yet with time, it becomes constrictive. Leaders who handle management issues with that same inelasticity — in mind and in action — may be missing out on countless opportunities for collaboration, innovation and growth. They are also likely building walls between themselves and their team members, who find them unapproachable.

Rigidity is not a character trait; rather, it is an all-or-nothing, unyielding way of thinking that manifests itself in action. The good news: It can be softened. We often help our executive coaching clients find ways to increase employee engagement within their teams or departments. Increasing leadership flexibility is one strategy that can help build engagement. In the process, leaders realize several other benefits

5 Advantages of Increasing Your Leadership Flexibility

Many of our executive coaching clients are initially wary of flexibility, wondering if it will result in a loss of control or — worse yet — end in chaos. Actually, increasing your flexibility can make you a stronger leader. Here’s how:

  1. You learn how to adapt — Plans change. Employees quit; new hires join the team. Budgets are cut; grants are approved. As the saying goes: The only constant is change. Flexible leaders recognize the need to change their course of action at the appropriate times.
  2. You welcome input from team members — Because they know you will listen, employees are willing to offer feedback and share ideas. By asking for — and using — employee input, you not only gain the benefit of their potentially valuable ideas, you also take steps to boost team morale.
  3. You are open to innovation — Change doesn’t intimidate you. If there are newer, better and more efficient ways to get things done, you will consider them. It’s not about doing things “the way we’ve always done them” if more effective methods or processes come to light.
  4. You become more resilient — Increased flexibility boosts resilience, your ability to mentally bounce back from adversity. Rather than being locked into old thought patterns (e.g., “The plan failed; therefore, I must be an incompetent manager”), you begin to look at situations with greater insight (e.g., “The plan failed; I need to consider whether we had the right tools and staffing in place, if our timing was off, or if some other factors came into play.”). As a result, you move forward with solutions to consider for the next round.
  5. You experience greater productivity — Recognizing individual differences and how they impact work styles may be one way to significantly enhance workplace productivity, according to leadership experts Ellen Ernst Kossek and Kelly Hannum, who recommend adapting work accordingly. “Employees are healthier, experience less stress and are more productive and engaged when they effectively make choices about how, where and when they work,” they say.

There are many ways in which we encourage our executive coaching clients to increase their flexibility. One strategy is to imagine taking another person’s perspective, whether your boss’s, an employee’s, or someone’s from the broader political or competitive landscape. Thinking though a situation from another vantage point can be very mind-opening.

Or consider reading A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can be More Creative, by Roger von Oech, A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel H. Pink or The Whole Brain Business Book: Unlocking the Power of Whole Brain Thinking in Organizations, Teams and Individuals by Ned Herrmann and Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, three books designed to help expand your ability to think outside of the box.

Have you found other advantages in increasing your flexibility as a leader?