Consistency and Flexibility

I had a good conversation with a guy yesterday around the concept of leading people.

The very best leaders of people find a way to lead with both consistency and flexibility.

Consistency establishes the normal pattern. If you don't have consistency, the people you lead will never know what to expect from you. This will either cause them to hold back out of fear of you or take advantage of you until you finally draw a line in the sand. You need consistency of philosophy and vision so people know your expectations of them and are free to make decisions within that. They also need to know the boundaries on them and their peers so there is a mutual understanding and accountability for decisions they make.

Flexibility provides for exceptions to the normal pattern. If you are too rigid a leader on the consistency spectrum you'll be a horrible person to work with, much less for. You need the ability to see special situations and circumstances and to treat them as such. Organizations, just like interpersonal relationships, don't exist in black and white. Flexible leaders can see the grey as grey, but only when it's appropriate.

The guy I talked to yesterday said his preference in hiring senior level staff would always be to err toward consistency and try to train a consistent person to be flexible. I certainly see wisdom in that, but I'm not so sure it's that easy for me. What do you think?