Exploring Leadership with Flexible Leadership Model

The Flexible Leadership Model: a tested framework for unlocking the potential of many rather than relying on the power of a few. A five-dimensional approach acknowledges that leadership has to be adaptable and flexible, with the roles of leaders and followers changing to meet the demands of the situation. A valuable lesson for MaastrichtMBA’s Online Track students during their Flexible Leadership Lecture. Led by Drs. Micole Smits, the lecture challenges them to re-evaluate what leadership is and gives them the right tools to adapt to any situation using the five leadership styles in the Flexible Leadership Model.


The session kicks off with an interactive round to memorise names and share key takeaways from the week’s previous lectures. Micole invites students to share their experiences, sharing her own personal story first. She sets the tone for exploring personal experiences, creating an environment where everyone feels safe to share.


Together, they explore expectations of today’s lecture and start a first, small exercise: “Take a moment for yourself to write down on a post-it what leadership is to you in this moment of your life.” After students finish the exercise, Micole asks them to share their personal definition of leadership.

First Connect; Then Lead

It takes a while before everyone who wants to say something, has spoken. Micole writes it all down on a flip chart and leads the discussion on what leadership is to the group. Highlighting the lecture’s first lesson, she asks: “If you reflect on what we have been doing from the start of this session until now, what does that say about leadership?”


First lesson of this lecture: first connect, then lead. Micole: “We started off like we did because I believe that leading is only possible when you have a connection to someone. I was checking in with you, asking all kinds of questions, to see how you look at certain things, which will help me discover our common direction. It was a conscious choice to spend quite some time on forming a connection with you. Writing it all down shows that I take seriously what you say and want to share it with the group – although all I did was something simple like ask questions and write down your answers. Leadership shows up in every single small moment, in everything you do, and you will always have to adapt to different situations.”

Flexible Leading: Fuelling Connections and Creating Opportunities

Then, it’s time for some theory. Micole introduces the Flexible Leadership Model, a framework that is spacious enough to acknowledge the contributions of everyone, rather than just the one person at the top. This framework invites leaders at all levels to fuel connections and create opportunities for shared ownership of solutions. A five-dimensional approach recognises that leadership has to be fluid and flexible, and the roles leaders and followers play must shift to suit the situation. Micole explains: “The five dimensions of this model, ‘front’, ‘field’, ‘self’, ‘beside’, and ‘behind’, are dimensions that you can step into at any moment. You have to learn to sense which situation needs which leadership style.”


The model’s five dimensions are represented by circles on the floor, and students are invited to write down associations of the dimensions, step into the dimensions they have most questions about, and discuss them with fellow students. As students discuss, Micole helps them discover the various leadership dimensions, teaching them to view leadership from different perspectives. “In every conversation and situation, you have a choice”, Micole shows. “Which leadership style will you use and what is the impact of that? I want you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in certain leadership styles; notice what is needed and have the flexibility and the skills to answer and react effectively in different situations and roles.”

Building on Each Other’s Energy

Online MBA Student Alexandra Amalia Balan reflects on the lecture’s lessons. “This lecture and this face-to-face week helps me become not just a better leader, but a better human being. It is nice to be able to say that you are a better version of yourself, but I think itis a goal of this week to learn to understand someone’s different perspective. This week’s focus on self-reflection and understanding different perspectives aligns with my belief that leadership is not confined to a title; it is about making positive changes and being authentic. The discussions on what leadership is resonate with the real-world challenge of respecting diverse working styles, and learning how to adapt my leadership style to various situations and working styles is very valuable,” Alexandra explains.


Looking at her experiences in the Online MBA track, she continues: “I think the online MBA is amazing, because it allows us to find our own proper time to study. However, being on campus for this week adds so much value. It enables us to connect and interact, explore different perspectives, get more insights, and build on each other’s energy. The balance of learning online and sharing valued moments inside the university is just a really good learning experience!”



This article presents a recap of the elective week on Personal Leadership at Maastricht University. This elective week is part of the Responsible Leadership elective and represent the elective part of the executive modular part-time MaastrichtMBA programme. The programme has a Triple Crown accreditation and is aimed for professionals with at least 5 years of working experience.

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