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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

11 Jul '12

Flexibility and the art of negotiation

Posted by T.J. Addington in conflict, emotional intelligence (EQ), relationships
An important trait for leaders as well as team and board members is that of flexibility: the ability to live with a certain ambiguity and the willingness to put aside one's personal preferences when necessary for the good of the group. 


Inflexible leaders (or team or board members) come off as autocratic and often as arrogant (whether they intend to or not) because they need to have their way. Their thinking is black and white and they are willing to die on hills not worth dying on. It creates great frustration for people around them who cannot figure out what the inflexibility is about.


With inflexibility comes a critical spirit because alternate ideas or choices are by nature the wrong ones. Thus, creative dialogue is stifled, killing healthy robust dialogue at the best and creating conflict at the worst as others push for a different and common solution.


I will never knowingly put an inflexible, black and white individual on a team because it will hurt the team. Nor will I put such an individual into leadership because they cannot lead collaboratively. In fact, inflexible leaders would be counterculture and destructive to our organization that is highly empowered and collegial. 


There are certainly black and white issues - integrity and sin for instance. But much of life is gray - neither black and white - where we make choices from among many options, none of which are either right or wrong. They are simply choices. In my fifties, I am far more flexible than I was in my twenties. I am less sure about many things but more sure about a few things. 


If you struggle with inflexibility, ask yourself these questions:
  • If we do this, what is the worst that could happen?
  • Am I willing to humble myself to the will of the group?
  • Can I trust that the Holy Spirit will speak through the group?
  • Why do I need to have my way?
  • Why am I anxious about this decision?
Negotiation is the art of dialogue around those issues where we come at them from a different perspective than others. An inflexible individual tends not to dialogue but to push for their way. Flexible individuals are able to have a conversation around their differences and in the process usually come to a solution that is actually better than any of the individual solutions proposed. 

Ironically, the willingness to talk through differences often gets you closer to what you would have wished. That dialogue is actually negotiation if done with an open spirit.