The Higher Intent 1- Flexibility

Posted on December 2, 2009


Have you ever been commented by your superiors or subordinates as being inflexible or rigid? Perhaps, it could be that you have an ‘ideal blueprint’ for achieving certain results or a tested and proven strategy to tackle problems. While you know that flexibility is important, your solution just seem so riveting that you are absolutely convinced that this MUST be the way.

Many leaders are often labeled as ‘stubborn’ or ‘inflexible’ because they think this way. They are so fixated with a particular solution to a problem that they close off any criticisms and suggestions and literally ‘force’ their solution to work. In the first of a series of four articles on the ‘Higher Intent’, we shall discuss the relationship between the Higher Intent and Flexibility.

First, let us examine why leaders sometimes choose to be ‘stubborn’. Often, when assigned a task, we quickly formulate a solution, or a blueprint for the process we would go through to complete the task. The problem comes when we associate the formula for the process with the formula for the target, hence seeing this formula as a holy grail for mission success. We begin to believe that if the process plan fails, the mission necessarily must fail. Hence, while we may consciously tell ourselves that it is important to be flexible, we would not be able to stretch beyond the comfort of the boundaries of our plan.

The result? We end up being myopic and narrow-minded about our means. We become insistent of having things done our way. We treat suggestions offered to us as criticism and brush them off without the slightest consideration. As leaders, we know that this only spell trouble right? This would mean that our team becomes suffocated and possesses very little freedom and autonomy, hence having little platform to display their talents. This would mean that ideas that can potentially become great solutions are overlooked. As a whole, the team functions below efficiency and underperforms.

The solution to this problem is simple. To start, we should remember that our strong resolution to fulfill our mission requirements serves a good purpose for it propels us to be determined and resilient. At the same time, we should also be clear that being focused on the outcome is not the same as being focused on the process. The means is not the end. By staying focused on only the higher intention of the task, we would set ourselves free to be creative in our approach. Valid questions to ask ourselves would be along the lines of “Does this solve the problem?” or “How does doing this take us closer to the outcome?” This way, we’d be able to focus on the outcome while being flexible with our approach.

As leaders and managers, it is imperative that we create a conducive environment for teamwork and for our team members to voice their opinion. Only then can the team function smoothly and creatively. This environment would only be possible if we as leaders and managers can stay focused on the higher intent of each task and allow for flexibility in the process.

See also:

The Higher Intent 2- Adding Value

The Higher Intent 3- Communication

The Higher Intent 4- Success Strategies

What got you here may not get you there

There’s No Holy Grail to Leadership

Difference that Makes the Difference

Improve Your Leadership by Being Flexible