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October 30, 2023

Channeling Elastigirl! Leading with Flexibility

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing work environment, leading with flexibility is a must. Effective leadership requires a delicate balance between upholding standards while remaining flexible with your employees. 

Think about Elastigirl, the stretchy superhero mom from “The Incredibles.” From contorting herself to save the day to keeping her kids in check, she’s the perfect blend of flexibility and discipline. And though her superhero duties might be slightly more intense than our daily leadership roles (no laser-firing babies to deal with, hopefully), the lessons she imparts are universal. 

As a leader, you’ve gotta show your team empathy and adjustability, but not at the expense of core values and standards.

Tell Me More: Why Should I Be Leading with Flexibility?

Elastigirl doesn’t just bend and stretch because it looks cool on screen; there’s a method to her malleability. And there’s good reasons leaders should be flexible too:

Increased Trust: Just like how the Parr children know their superhero mom has their backs, leading with flexibility fosters trust. When team members see you flexing to create the best team environment, they’ll be more likely to give their best efforts, take risks, and communicate openly.

Boosted Innovation: A rigid environment is hardly conducive to creativity and innovation. If you want your team to come up with the next big thing, give them the room they need. Remember the Edna Mode’s superhero suits (no capes!)? That’s the kind of innovation you want!

Greater Ownership: When team members feel they have a say, they’re more invested in outcomes. Much like Elastigirl lets Violet and Dash use their powers responsibly, leaders should let team members take charge of their projects.

Improved Morale: A flexible work environment often leads to happier, more satisfied employees. It makes team members feel valued, which can boost productivity and reduce turnover.

Better Adaptability: In a rapidly evolving business landscape, the ability to pivot quickly is invaluable. Leaders who can adapt and embrace change, rather than resist it, often find more success.

When to Go Full-On Stretchy?

While flexibility is fantastic, it’s also essential to know when to pull back and maintain firmness. Channel your inner Elastigirl and pick your moments:

During Crises: Events beyond our control, such as weather, economic shifts, or pandemics (oof – don’t remind me), can impact the lives and stress levels of your employees. When leading in times of crisis, embrace flexibility around how the work gets done; your team will thank you for it.

Amid New Challenges: The business world can be unpredictable. When unforeseen challenges arise, sometimes the old ways won’t cut it. It’s time to get creative and flexible.

In Response to Feedback: If several team members are pointing toward a different direction or strategy, it might be worth considering. Stay open to their insights.

In Light of Cultural Differences: In global teams, cultural nuances can lead to varied ways of thinking. Instead of imposing a singular view, be open to diverse perspectives. 

To Allow for Project Iterations: Sometimes, projects need tweaks and revisions. Be flexible and allow room for adjustments and improvements based on feedback or changing circumstances.

When Employees Go Through Personal Struggles: Life happens, and sometimes it affects an employee’s well-being. During such times, understanding and empathy go a long way in supporting a team member.

Strategies for Leading with Flexibility

You don’t need to be made of elastic to be a flexible leader. Here are some strategies to keep you stretchy without snapping:

Listen Actively: Always listen more than you speak. This not only makes team members feel valued but can also lead to uncovering new ideas or resolving issues before they balloon.

Empower Others: Trust your team. If they feel they have the autonomy to make decisions, they’re more likely to be proactive and engaged.

Be Receptive to Feedback: Nobody’s perfect. Be willing to receive feedback, reflect on it, and make necessary adjustments.

Encourage Open Communication: Foster an environment where team members can voice concerns, provide feedback, or simply chat about their latest superhero escapades.

Allow Flexible Hours and Virtual Work: Understand that your team has lives outside of the office. A flexible approach to work hours or the option to work remotely can boost morale and productivity.

Enable People to Learn and Grow: Sometimes, flexibility means providing your team with the tools they need to adapt to new roles or challenges. Offering resources and training can be a game-changer.

How Should I Hold Firm as a Leader?

Set Clear Expectations: While flexibility is essential, it’s equally vital to set clear expectations. This ensures everyone’s on the same page.

Maintain Accountability: While each team member is unique, holding everyone to the same standards of accountability ensures fairness and consistency.

Stay True to Core Values: A leader should remain unwavering when it comes to the organization’s core values, as these principles guide decision-making and behavior.

Offer Improvement-Based Feedback: Rather than ignoring issues, address them head-on by giving feedback. This helps team members understand where they need to improve.

Keep Mission at the Forefront: The company’s mission should be a guiding light. While strategies might change, the mission remains constant.

Summing It All Up

Being a flexible leader, much like being a superhero, requires a mix of strength and adaptability. It’s about recognizing when to stand firm and when to stretch, pivot, or adapt. Leading like Elastigirl means embracing change, understanding individual needs, and always aiming for the greater good. So, suit up, channel your inner superhero, and lead with passion and flexibility!

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