Leaders who aren’t flexible and adaptable in the way they interact with others often struggle to maintain relationships, get tasks done through others and manage organizational dynamics. Like emotional intelligence, flexing to others’ preferences is a crucial skill in the workplace and beyond. Leaders who are skillful in delivering the messages, influencing others and being flexible in their approaches pay attention to the subtle (and not-so-subtle) needs of others and match their style to them. They know there is no one-size fits all or best communication style—no approach works in all situations with all people.

The most flexible leaders have the ability to tailor their speech, body language and approach so that others more readily listen and accept their ideas. These leaders capitalize on interactions with others, especially in critical business situations—when implementing change, selling ideas, delivering performance feedback and working with peers.

You’ll know your leaders need to be more flexible in how they approach others if you see these five things:

  1. Individual differences keep derailing teams being efficient and productive.
  2. Rapport is missing between leaders and their direct reports, peers, customers and senior leaders.
  3. Change messages being delivered in ways that create additional upset and angst.
  4. Leaders spending very little time preparing for important interactions.
  5. Leaders missing opportunities to use the strengths of their direct reports—because they may not recognize them.

Many things contribute to poor flexibility and adaptability, including lack of skills. For leaders who are missing awareness and skills in adapting to others, introducing them to influence styles, behavior preferences and flexing skills provides a context and easy-to-use framework for recognizing their own and others’ preferences and making small but meaningful adjustments.

One way to address leaders’ lack of flexibility is by providing them with knowledge of behavior preferences. Many of these tools exist, including Insights Discovery, DiSC and Interaction Styles. Interaction Styles in particular is a simple, but robust tool for increased influence and flexibility. The Interaction Style Profile and Guidebooks are implemented by thousands of Talent Development teams across the globe, in multiple languages, as stand-alone training and embedded into existing training and development programs.