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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Mar 1, 2024


Rules can be frustrating. It can be tempting to bend the rules or ignore them altogether, but this can lead to negative outcomes. This week we explore how to work around rules but maintain your integrity.



Hello and welcome to episode 220 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. This week we explore how to work around rules but maintain your integrity.

Lapses in integrity have ended many leaders’ careers. Breaking the rules is never a good idea. But we often need to be creative and flexible to get things done. Blindly sticking to out of date rules can mean we miss opportunities. Organisations can become overrun with excessive bureaucracy if we don’t challenge the rules. Sometimes we need to bend the rules, change the rules, or work around them. But how do we do that with integrity?

Research demonstrates that while rule-breakers may be seen as more dominant, they generally have less respect from others and are seen as having reduced leadership potential. The research also shows that rule-benders can be seen as having more leadership potential, but only in competitive situations. Generally, rule-abiders were viewed most positively in cooperative settings.

So while bending the rules may work when we need to win against a competitor, we need to be careful bending the rules in most other settings. We also need to be careful about the example we set for others. If we bend the rules as a leader, we can expect those who follow us to do the same. This can lead to adverse outcomes if people bend rules without fully understanding the consequences.

Here are five tips to help you bend the rules while maintaining integrity:

  1. Understand why the rules exist. Take the time to research why rules were put in place originally. Speak to those responsible for the rule and find out the history behind them. You might uncover specific reasons why the rule is in place, or you might find that the rule can be changed.

  2. Confirm the constraints. Sometimes rules are shared from person to person with slight variations. What someone might share as a steadfast rule might actually be quite different to the actual rule. Explore the constraints and where there might be flexibility.

  3. Get creative. Look for innovative ways to either work around the rule or reduce its impact on your work. Brainstorm with your team to come up with creative solutions.

  4. Get a second opinion. Before you take action, check in with someone else you respect to confirm your approach. 

  5. Inform others. You don’t want to be taking innovative action without letting others know. You don’t want to be seen as being deceptive or sneaky in your approach.

And if you do discover a rule that no longer makes sense for your organisation, mount the case to have it removed. That will help others to be more effective as well.



Rule benders make more appealing leaders than rule abiders -


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