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There is no question as "can leaders be flexible"! Flexibility and adaptability are an essential part of effective leadership (Nielson, 2008). Effective leadership is assumed to solve problems considering both the social system and the environment. It is argued that effective leaders by using social intelligence select appropriate behavioral responses (Kenny and Zaccaro, 1983; Zaccaro, Foti and Kenny, 1991, cited in Zaccaro et al, 1991). This apparently shows that leaders are expected to change their behavior in accordance to the environment and the followers; in short the situation. Effective leadership requires adaptability to fix the needs of given situation (Fiedler, 1967; House, 1971, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010).
Groups and organizations falls in to open social systems which is characterize as the goals and requirements of these systems are derived from social demands in the environment, the continues developments of the systems depends on environment exchange process and these groups and organization adopt toward continued system growth and maintenance within the changing embedding environment (Zaccaro et al, 1991). The current dynamic change is accelerated due to advance in technology, higher competition, short product life cycle, complex of culture, globalization and increase in mergers and acquisition worldwide. Here comes the importance of the leader's role in solving organizational problems and facilitating the goal achievement of the organization (Fleishman et al, 1991, cited in Zaccaro et al, 1991). The major roles of leadership includes acquiring information, utilizing those information in order to come up with proper solutions, problem identification, planning and generating solution options, implementing action, monitoring the process and in order to ensure organizational growth they are suppose to monitor the embedding environment in order to gather information on short and long term organizational prospects (Fleishman et al, 1991; Lord, 1997; Mumford and Connelly, 1991; Katz and Kahn, 1978; Mumford, 1986, cited in Zaccaro et al, 1991).
The social context and the environment are highly dynamic and complex. Therefore, high possibilities for problems. The leader is expected to have an effective negotiating skills and integration skills in order to come up with effective solutions. In order to handle the above complex scenario the leader is expected to have two social attributes which is social perceptiveness which makes him or her to quickly acquire what is happening in the organization. i.e. awareness of situation; and behavioral flexibility which helps him or her bringing suitable answers to those situation (Zaccaro et al, 1991).
Studies argue that some sort of motivation is needed in order to flexible leader's characteristics and behaviors according to the situation. This motivation could be derived through dominance and power acquisition (Zaccaro et al, 1991). This answers the second question whether the leaders can change their behaviors. Even though it is difficult, it could be done. The older trait theories suggested leadership traits as consistence which was a failure when apply to dramatic dynamic environment. The emergence of situational leadership theory suggested that leader's behavior would change according to the requirements based on the situation (Gibb, 1969; Murphy, 1941, cited in Zaccaro et al, 1991).
The only situation where static leadership style will be successful is there the situation is almost constant which is rare.
The leadership flexibility can be viewed based on different aspects such as: (Good and Sharma, 2010).
Effective leadership is expected to have extra capacity of coming up with new strategies based on the challenging situations which can be defined as coping flexibility. Coping flexibility should focus on both the problem and the emotions of the human involved by using the leader's ability of differentiating and integration in order to judge the situation in multiple dimensions (Cheng, 2005, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010).
This is the ability to use different appraisal methods in order to identify the cause of events. A failure of change could be because of high resistance from the team members, lack of competency or failure of the leader's ways of communication (Moss and Martinko, 1998, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010). The leader should be able to identify exactly which was the cause. Explanatory flexibility is more useful in adverse circumstances where the leader deals with stress and negativity (Xavier, 2005, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010).
Leader, in order to effectively interact with the entire stakeholders, the leader is expected to vary the behavior according to the situation. "Leadership is a complex social interaction" (Wong and Law, 2002, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010). Leader could develop the interpersonal flexibility with the support of empathy, control and self-monitoring (Shapiro and Weitz, 1990, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010).
This is the ability of using appropriate emotion which can be positive or negative accordance with the different situations (Rozanski and Kubzansky, 2005 cited in Good and Sharma, 2010). This can be achieved through control of impulse and process based emotions effectively (Miller, 1982, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010). Relationship between the leader and the followers would highly influence the emotional flexibility.
Learning is defined as a cycle which includes feeling, reflecting, thinking and acting (Kolb, 1984, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010). In order to explain this lets take an example of a leader serving the market in another country who may be expected to live in particular country in order to feel the expectation of customers, culture, etcâ€¦ and then reflect how it is different compare to the country of origin. From the learning he or she gained, he or she expected to redesign the original product in order to fit the demand and culture of the other country, which is thinking. Finally, he or she would launch the new product in to the new market which is acting. In order to be effective, leader is expected to be flexible in learning.
Leader is expected to clearly and effectively communicate the vision and the expectation to the followers (Kotter, 1996, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010). The current dynamic environment brings changes to the goals and expectations often. Therefore, leader is 4expected to continuously communicate the change in order to keep the followers updated. Communication flexibility is the ability to generate suitable communicative ways according to the situation (Martin and Rubin, 1994, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010).
Leader should be able to flexible and utilize the strength of both masculine and feminine qualities according to the situation. Male characteristics are seen as being dominant whereas female characteristics more nurturant (Bem, 1976, cited Good and Sharma, 2010).
Leader is expected to have creative problem solving skills and the capacity & willingness to proactively interpret a given scenario from a varied perspective (Runco, 1994, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010). Cognitive flexibility is one of the key flexibilities required for the today's dynamic environment which can be either reactive or spontaneous.
Decision making flexibility:
Leader should be able to develop multiple strategies according to the situations and demonstrate. Leader should also understand that a successful strategy previously implemented may not be successful in another situation (Broder and Newell, 2008, cited in Good and Sharma, 2010). Leader's traits such as openness and creative thinking will help in developing decision-making flexibility.
In conclusion, Leadership flexibility is required in perceiving the situation, option generation in order to come up with strategies and action implementation. As understood, that change is the only constant think, leaders are expected to be flexible enough in order to lead the organization towards success according to the current situation. Leaders are expected to understand that there is no single strategy, style or solution for all time events. Leaders are expected to change their personality in order to suite the current situation. The emergence of situational leadership theory explains the importance of flexibility in great context.