“Change is the only constant in life,” Heraclitus once said, and nowhere is this truer than in leadership.

Imagine you’re the driver on a long car trip. You’ve got a map and a plan, but you know you might hit some detours along the way. The best leaders are those who can change their plan when a road is closed, or there’s a better path they didn’t know existed before. They don’t just stick to the route they started; they’re ready to try new ways to get to where they’re going.

Now imagine you’re leading a team, and something unexpected comes up — a new problem that no one saw coming. A good leader won’t just throw up their hands. Instead, they’ll take a deep breath and use it as a chance to come up with new ideas and grow stronger. They’ll ask their team, “What do you think?” and really listen to their feedback.

In leadership, your team’s ideas and feedback are invaluable. They can turn challenges into opportunities for growth and innovation. Using a work management software like Wrike ensures every team member’s suggestions are heard and integrated into your planning. 

With Wrike’s dynamic Gantt charts, for example, you get a clear overview of your projects. You can see who’s doing what, which tasks are due when, and how everything comes together. It keeps your team aligned, so when plans change, as they often do, you’re ready to respond with a solid, collective approach.

Screenshot of Gantt charts in Wrike

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Understanding the contingency approach to leadership

Leadership is an evolving practice that demands keen awareness and adaptability. In leadership, we often talk about the “contingency approach” — a term that essentially means there is no universal playbook for effective leadership. 

Every situation is unique and, as a leader, you’re tasked with figuring out which leadership tool will fix the problem at hand. Leadership demands a keen eye for strategy and the right tools to manage the complexities of any situation.  

Take, for example, Wrike’s custom workflows. When faced with a tight deadline, you can use these workflows to automate task assignments based on project updates or status changes. This means less time spent on manual organization and more time for strategic decision making.

Using Wrike means having access to a suite of tools that support a contingency approach to leadership, enabling you to select the most appropriate leadership style for the task at hand. Whether through real-time collaboration or streamlined workflow management, Wrike equips leaders with the features necessary to guide their teams with confidence and flexibility.

Remember — being flexible doesn’t mean being indecisive; it means being thoughtful and responsive to your team’s needs and the demands of each project. The lesson is that you guide your team through the rough patches and celebrate the big and small wins together.  

Ready to revamp your work processes with Wrike? Start your free trial now.

The importance of flexibility in leadership

Flexibility in leadership is the bedrock of effective management. Flexibility means your leadership style fits your teams’ and projects’ needs. This adaptability fosters a supportive environment where creativity and innovation can flourish.

When leaders embrace flexibility, they send a clear message: they value their team’s input and insights. This openness builds trust and encourages a culture of mutual respect. As challenges emerge, a flexible leader navigates through them quickly, guiding their team toward solutions that align with individual and organizational goals.

Your agility in adapting to new challenges defines your success as a leader. Recent insights from Wrike’s efficiency report reveal that 57% of business leaders acknowledge their employees’ concerns about being overworked. This statistic clearly shows the need for leaders to create a supportive atmosphere where team members can thrive without the fear of burnout.

You can reinforce this agility with Wrike’s real-time reporting. These features give leaders a deeper understanding of team performance, project progression, and operational bottlenecks. Our reports allows you to assess the health of your projects at a glance. This means you can make informed decisions swiftly, ensuring your management style remains flexible and responsive to your team’s current needs. 

 Screenshot of projects report widget in Wrike

Caitlin Beaty, Assistant Agency Manager at Knorr Marketing, highlights Wrike’s transformative impact: “Wrike simplifies all of our processes in a way that makes every department more efficient. Less time tracking down the status of a project means more time spent helping our clients be more successful!” 

Her feedback echoes the sentiments of many leaders who strive for efficiency without compromising their team’s wellbeing.

The role of a flexible leader in a complex environment

Let’s explore two key aspects of a flexible leader’s role: adapting to changing circumstances and navigating through uncertainty.

Adapting to changing circumstances

Flexible leaders understand the importance of strategies and methods that may have worked in the past. Change is the only constant, and you’re always ready to adapt as a flexible leader. Gone are the days of sticking to a plan simply because it’s the plan. You’re looking for technological shifts, market trends, or team dynamics — and you’re quick to guide your team in a new direction. A flexible leader is proactive, not reactive.

In an era where change is a given, flexible leaders leverage tools like Wrike’s generative AI to adapt and innovate. This feature supports leadership by automating routine tasks and generating new content, freeing up leaders to focus on strategic decision making and nurturing a culture of creativity.

For instance, when a new market trend emerges, Wrike’s generative AI can quickly provide relevant data and brainstorm ideas, empowering teams to push the envelope and stay ahead of the curve.  

With a tool that understands your brand’s voice and vision, you can effortlessly create project briefs, detailed plans, and creative ideas. Stella Peterson, Head of Legal Operations at Kalexius, shares, “Every week I create reports for clients, and every week I can do that faster because we automate everything. It’s a huge time saver. Because the data is readily available in Wrike, we can pull reports in just five minutes.”

Leaders who embrace such tools create an environment where innovation is encouraged and seamlessly integrated into the workflow.

Screenshot of generative AI in Wrike

Navigating through uncertainty

Uncertainty in business can lead to unease, making clear and effective communication important. Flexible leaders shine in these moments, offering direction and reassurance to their teams. They maintain transparency, sharing knowledge and updates that help demystify the unknown and align the team’s efforts.

In the world of work, where changes come thick and fast, adapting and communicating with your team is non-negotiable. According to Wrike’s Dark Matter of Work report, 75% of workers don’t see themselves returning to the old way of working since the pandemic. And here’s the thing: this shift to remote working is sticking around. 

Wrike gives you a clear overview of all your projects, no matter where your team members are. This means you can have a virtual office that’s open 24/7, where everyone can see what’s going on and what they need to do next. Wrike lets you give real-time feedback to teams across different locations, keeping everyone focused on what matters. 

So, when it comes to guiding your team through uncertain times, Wrike has your back. It’s all about keeping everyone informed and on track, which is exactly what you need to lead a team through change.

Challenges in applying a contingency approach

While the contingency approach to leadership offers numerous benefits, it has challenges. Two common challenges are identifying the right leadership style and balancing flexibility with consistency.

Identifying the right leadership style

The contingency approach is recognizing that there’s no perfect way to lead. Each team and situation demands a distinct approach. 

The challenge is often about pinpointing the most effective leadership style for the task. This means getting to know your team — their strengths, their preferences, and what gets them motivated. It also means you must stay open to feedback and adjust your approach as needed.

For example, quick and decisive action might be essential in a fast-paced tech startup, calling for a more directive leadership style. In contrast, a creative agency might benefit more from a participative approach encouraging idea sharing and collaboration.

But it doesn’t stop there. Leaders must consider the cultural and organizational context in which they operate. Different cultures value different leadership styles, and what may be effective in one culture may not work in another. It requires leaders to be culturally sensitive and adapt their style accordingly.

Balancing flexibility and consistency

Flexibility in leadership allows for adaptation; however, a consistent framework must anchor it. This balance ensures that while tactics may shift to meet new challenges, the organization’s core mission and values stay unchanged. Leaders can achieve this by setting clear guidelines and principles for their decision making. 

For instance, a leader might emphasize open communication, integrity, and innovation as non-negotiable values that guide their actions, regardless of the situation. However, the challenge lies in avoiding the extremes, as being too rigid can suppress creativity and innovation. 

At the same time, excessive flexibility may result in a lack of direction and confusion. Leaders must be adept at reading the room, understanding the unique dynamics of each situation, and deciding when a firm hand is needed and when a more flexible approach is beneficial.

Leaders who adopt the right tools make a difference

A contingency approach to leadership requires a blend of steady principles and adaptable tactics. As a leader, you must know when to stand firm and when to bend, ensuring your vision remains intact even as the path to achieving it evolves. 

Leaders who excel in this balancing act are the ones who can manage and genuinely inspire their teams. The real art of leadership creates a culture where resilience is celebrated and emotional intelligence is a given. It’s an environment that thrives on collaboration, where challenges are met with creativity and agility. 

As a leader, your role is to confidently guide your team through changes, using every tool at your disposal to make the journey as smooth as possible. Wrike supports the dynamic needs of leaders and teams alike. With Wrike, you can streamline communication, organize tasks, and adapt to the demands of your project. You can manage projects and lead your team to success efficiently, effectively, and flexibly.

Ivan Ward, a producer and media manager in the retail industry, encapsulates the essence of confident leadership: “Wrike really does inspire confidence as a leader simply because when you know where things are at any given point and you know your team’s workload, you know how to plan. You simply have visibility into everything, and I think visibility for us is confidence-inspiring.”

If you are ready to lead with new flexibility, try Wrike today and experience the difference the right tools can make.