Shaya Kass
Focus, Flourish and Fly using science

How you can become a more flexible leader

Photo by Jean Wimmerlin on Unsplash and is in the public domain.

In this week’s parasha, we are told at least 10 times that Pharaoh would not change his mind either because “his heart was steadfast” or because “the Lord strengthened his heart”. What kind of leader was he if he saw a really bad situation and he could not change course and instead kept going down one really bad path?

But wait. Have you ever done that? Have you ever seen a situation that is really not working out and you kept trying to fix it? We all know the quote misattributed to Einstein – “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” Are we guilty of that? And much, much more importantly, how can we avoid it in the future?

As a leader, not only do we have to avoid sticking to one path, we often have to embrace being on two paths at the same time. Dr. Louis Baron and others in their 2018 article write about the concept of leadership flexibility. A leader has to improve productivity and at the same time improve employee morale. A good business leader has to simultaneously adapt to innovations and promote stability. This is leadership flexibility. And leaders who have a balanced repertoire are seen as more effective.

Previous research has shown that emotional intelligence and flexibility influence each other. This makes sense since the definition of emotional intelligence includes, among other things, self-awareness, self-management and relationship management.  If you can juggle yourself while juggling relationships among all of your team and your own boss, you are pretty set.

So where does mindfulness come in? There is a 2014 study that showed, not surprisingly, that being mindful helps leaders react more sensibly rather than impulsively because they can balance all the information coming in and they have more self-awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, their own emotions and their impact on others. Perhaps mindful leaders can do this because they can distance themselves from their own thoughts and feelings.

Dr. Baron surveyed 150 managers looking for a connection between balanced leadership and mindfulness. He was looking for two specific balances. First between forceful leaders who are “my way or the highway” kind of bosses and enabling leaders who include others in decision making. The second balance Dr. Baron looked for was between strategic leaders who look to the future and operational leaders who handle the day-to-day problems. We all know that every leader has to be able to be both kinds of leader and the best managers know when to choose to be strategic vs operational bosses. Similarly, the best leaders know their employees well enough to know which ones need a forceful boss and which need an enabling manager. This, I think, is wht is meant by leadership flexibility.

Not surprisingly, those leaders who were able to balance these different styles are also the leaders who are most mindful.

And please don’t think this applies to leadership in business only. We are all leaders in some area of our lives. It might be at work, it might be in our family or it might be in our temple or synagogue. No matter where you are a leader, mindfulness will help you balance your reaction to the situation.

Because if you can only stay on one path and you can’t be flexible, you may just end up like Pharaoh. And it didn’t end too well for him!


You can reach Dr. Shaya Kass at or at 1-800-544-0559

This newsletter is published by Dr. Shaya Kass and is meant for informational purposes only.

Photo by Jean Wimmerlin on Unsplash and is in the public domain.

The article discussed in this newsletter is: Baron, L., Rouleau, V., Grégoire, S., & Baron, C. (2018). Mindfulness and leadership flexibility. Journal of Management Development, 37(2), 165–177.

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