• Toby Sinclair

Leadership Yoga: A toolkit to build flexibility into how you lead

The best leaders don’t know just one style of leadership—they’re skilled at several, and have the flexibility to switch between styles as the circumstances dictate. Daniel Goleman – Author: Emotional Intelligence

Leaders today need flexibility more than ever to be able to lead in different contexts. Many defer to personal preferences even if the context requires a shift in approach. Some hold onto command and control style. Others stick to a non-directive approach. Both can be helpful in context.

The challenge: how to be flexible based on context, whilst being authentic. True to your values and beliefs.

Over the past 18 months Yoga has taught me many lessons. Regular practice has helped unlearn behaviours impacting flexibility, body and mind. The importance of release rather than to push. Not striving for the perfect pose. To avoid comparisons to others.

These lessons from Yoga have relevance for leadership. How often our leadership is rigid, lacking flexibility. How we strive for the perfect leadership style, without realising there isn’t one. How we copy from others the approaches that seem right.

To help you build greater flexibility, below are a set of Leadership Yoga Exercises.

Each exercise is short and performed over time will build greater flexibility and new leadership habits.

Play with the Scale of Influence


The Scale of Influence demonstrates a spectrum of leadership behaviours. From Directive to Non-directive.

It is typical for leaders to think a non-directive approach is “correct”. “Command and control” styles often seen as “incorrect” Both can be over used. Flexibility is key. Be aware of the context and be comfortable at either end of the scale.

Exercise:

Ask your team to highlight which option you adopt most and if they would prefer a shift in style?


Explore how Radical Candor feels

Radical Candor is an excellent book which explores the different leadership styles adopted, in particular around feedback. Kim Scott highlights that a balance between caring personally and direct challenge often brings out the best in others.

Radical Candor: Kim Scott


Next time you need to have a difficult conversation, write down the key points you want to make. Practice saying them in the mirror. Reflect after the conversation on the key points you were able to make.

Say No for the Day

In the film, Yes Man, starring Jim Carey, the lead character decides to say Yes to everything in his life.


Many leaders find it easy to say Yes, it’s more difficult to say No. Especially with difficult stakeholders and customers. Promises are made as the leader might find it difficult to say no. A leader who cannot say No can have big impacts on the teams they work with, often leading to overburdening.

Become more comfortable with saying No.


Spend the day saying No to every request. Stretch this rule as far as you can. Observe how it feels and the consequences of your decisions.


Spend a day with a team

As you become more senior you increasingly work in “leadership” roles and become more removed from the day-to-day work of the teams. This can make your leadership approach lack a dose of reality.

Senior Managers can build flexibility to lead without relying corporate titles. Joining a team can provide a good reality check. How it feels to be in a “team” environment. Being flexible in how to collaborate in a more authentic, personal way.

Exercise:

Clear your diary and spend a day with your team (or customers). Drop your title and see how it feels to work in a team. Also observe how others respond around you.

Are there exercises that help build flexibility into your leadership?

Please let me know and I will share them here!

More exercises coming soon.

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©2020 by Toby Sinclair.