The differences among people can be both an advantage and a disadvantage to teams. In this context, what I am thinking about today revolves around leaders making significant changes to accommodate one or more person’s individual needs. To put it another way, how much do I have to (and should I) bend as a leader for my team members? I think the answer is the ever clarifying – it depends. In my opinion, there are some areas, like ethics, where there is no flexibility. Effective leadership directly relates to ethical behavior, which cannot be compromised. Unfortunately, other individual characteristics may impact team building and teamwork, and they are not as clear-cut.
Most other examples, like physical disabilities or personality quirks, start out with the sentiment that leaders must take those things into consideration for the overall team strategy. However, each example comes to a point where ‘but’ comes into play. For instance, physical disabilities of team members are something leaders have to adjust and accommodate…but…. if the mission of the team is one where the physical limitation hinders the team from accomplishing the goal then physical disabilities may be a disqualifying characteristic. That seems to be my thread of thinking – leaders should and must do what is right and proper to incorporate whatever talent that individual brings to the table as long as it does not jeopardize the overall goal accomplishment or the other team members.
Another thing to keep in mind is that leaders must adjust and adapt their leadership styles in different ways to effect different people. Not that the leader changes who they are for every person they meet. How they interact or motivate people has to be adaptable. To be sure, it is a tough balance. However, I believe the answer to my original question about how far to bend is don’t. What I mean by this is not to bend as a leader so much that my own morals, convictions or sense of self are affected or compromised. Those traits are what help strengthen me as a leader in the first place. Working with team members, in whatever ways they need to achieve their goals, should not conflict with that simple premise. If it does, it is up to the leader to remain resolved.
CEO, The Professional Development Team