The definition of “leadership” varies from expert to expert, even from person to person. And a good leader in one culture may not be so in another, unless some adjustments are made. It’s because leadership isn’t written in stone. It’s a social construct, and there is no one formula that guarantees the result of a specific leadership.
In other words, leadership is by default actually fluid. A leader can’t force a particular leadership style if it doesn’t provide any favorable result. A leader must adapt or perish, which can be largely determined by change or no change, risks, priorities, technicality, crisis or no crisis, people being led and others.
However, not every leader is aware of this “fluidity” in leadership. He or she might consider a specific leadership style as his or her main style, while actually it shapes and re-shapes after each situation, crisis or change.
The four popular leadership styles are authoritative, democratic, affiliative and coaching. A fluid leader knows when to use each of those styles, which depends on various variables.
Now, assuming that you’re a leader with a team undergoing changes, how can your fluid leadership be improved so that it would cater to the present need? How can it shape your leadership along the way and in the future?
First, be mindful of what you do and how you behave as a leader.
Mindfulness is key for success, including success as a leader. When you’re mindful, you’re aware of what you do, how your action affects others and yourself, and what kind of short- and long-term impact it has on the organization. This heightened awareness also provides you with the tool needed to apply a specific leadership style at any given time.
Second, learn from others, including people you lead.
When you’re humble enough to learn from others, you shift the burden of leadership to others momentarily. When you’ve decided to apply what you learned, you’re back in the driver’s seat. Being flexible in who, what, when, where and why you learn is in itself a form of fluidity.
Third, request for others to provide feedback.
Ask people around you to give inputs, ideas, suggestions and any feedback as they see fit. This way, you can see how your leadership works or doesn’t. Also, you’re able to remedy any areas that need attention. This allows you to be fluid for the betterment of the organization through others’ inputs.
Fourth, keep your eyes on the ultimate goals.
Like a basketball player, your eyes should stay on the basket with the ultimate goal of scoring as many times as possible. However, also like a basketball player, you must be aware of where the ball is. Catch it, dribble it, throw it to other team players, and stay focused in general. Like a basketball player, you’re flexible. Sometimes you dribble and shoot; sometimes you just defend and throw the ball.
Fifth, own risks and prioritize well.
A good leader understands the risks involved and prioritizes well. He or she mitigates the risks but remains focused to perform based on priorities.
Being fluid in leadership changes yourself from the inside out. It allows you to become more aware of what others think, feel and do, and how those affect you and the organization in return. You will become a genuinely fluid leader once you’ve reached a point where you feel comfortable being flexible and self-confident enough to avoid the so-called ego-hindering leadership acts.