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Balancing the Leadership Paradox: Flexibility And Control

Any leader who governs a team, howsoever small or big, is faced with paradoxes all the time. My interactions with a lot of leaders during this pandemic, have brought out one paradox that stands out more prominent than others : Flexibilty vs Control. With the recent situation where organizations are adopting WFA  (Working From Anywhere) concept, this gets even more delicate.

Flexibility, has turned out to be a major driver to being competitive in the VUCA world, when we are constantly scouring for opportunities. Flexibility helps the organizations to be more creative and more nimble.  But flexibility usually comes at an expense of control. Control for processes, product/service quality or customer service which are the hygiene factors.

And hence, the choice between Flexibility or Control is a tightrope for the leaders. Pitching toward any one extreme can be precarious to the team and organization. To find a right balance, then becomes extremely vital.

Successful leaders have understood that having a paradox mindset prepares you for removing the need for consistency and find creative ways to balance the churn. It aims for more inclusive and collaborative solutions rather than ‘just this’ or ‘just that’.

A few steps to perfect the elusive balance as leaders, between flexibility and control could be

  1. Increase Situational Awareness

Find out your dominant leadership style (directing or supporting) and  be ready to adapt to a style based on a particular situation.

2. Communicate clear desired outcomes with a purpose 

The ‘what’ and ‘why’, rather than ‘how’ can really help balance the alignment and autonomy.

3. Maintain an open and welcoming image

Allowing team members to come back seeking clarity or your experience.

4. Give and Receive specific as well as regular feedback

A two way process to receive and give feedback.

5. Ask more questions

Have I considered alternate approaches to this problem?

Am I open to new suggestions from others?

What is the best course for everyone involved?

And though the world is governed by this balance of winning and losing, as leaders we still can have our own win-win with both flexibility and control.

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