What is Leadership Agility?
In today's complex, turbulent, and competitive business and technology environment, leaders need to master the skills required to become more proactive, collaborative, creative, and agile. Leadership agility is the core competency of agile leaders to make effective decisions, inspire others, bring others along, build the best team, be proactive, develop a culture of teamwork, define objectives, and contribute to strategic initiatives for the enterprise.
Leading with agility is an ability to step back, retrospect, gain a deeper perspective, make smart decisions, and take effective action. Leadership agility is not one single skill such as making effective decisions or inspiring people. Rather, it is a combination of skills working together that allows leaders to create the best customer and colleague experiences.
"Agility is fundamental to leading a team through times of change." - Sandra E. Peterson
What drives Leadership Agility?
Leaders' agility is the core reason behind the success of any enterprise or business. Some of the common behaviors that drive leadership agility are listed as below:
Being a change agent
With this fast-paced environment, leaders need to accept that change is inevitable and be prepared to embrace change. For an organizational change to be effective, leaders should initiate and respond to change quickly. If people believe in your decision-making skills, they will trust your ability to drive the change.
Employees need leaders who are committed to their success, seek feedback, make tough decisions, and communicate openly. Leaders who show personal commitment to change and inspire others to accept change play a critical role as change agents for the organization.
"If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary." - Jim Rohn
Leading with Purpose
The Covid-19 pandemic has created an economic crisis in the world and has disrupted supply chains. The pandemic led to a global labor shortage as people started to quit their jobs or resign early. The thought of returning to the office and the daily commute is discouraging for many people. People are willing to walk away from their jobs, switch employment, or take early retirement. Many businesses have now permanently embraced remote work while others are preparing for a hybrid model of working. During these times, it has become essentially important to encourage a sense of shared purpose that brings meaning to their work.
Agile leaders lead with a purpose that inspires and brings people together. Their vision is manifested in their actions and their goals. Leading with purpose energizes people, attracts top talent, and builds a strong sense of community.
"Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion." - Jack Welch
Leaders should strongly believe in their vision. The vision should reflect organizational purpose, motivate colleagues, display the organization's values, and explain the WHYs.
Creating a culture of openness, collaboration, and trust
Every agile leader must foster an open environment of trust and collaboration where people can freely discuss their ideas, experiment with their designs, collaborate, have the freedom to make mistakes, and have fun together.
The collaboration methods have changed tremendously due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, people could no longer have casual water-cooler conversations and thus started to explore available online tools that promote spontaneous ideation and collaboration. Most organizations adapted to new ways of working either remotely or in a hybrid environment. Some virtual collaboration tools that I found quite useful are Slack, Trello, Mural, WebEx Meetings, Zoom, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Google Docs, One Drive, etc.
"You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins." - Jim Stovall
Practicing faster decision-making
Faster decision-making is an important skill to make choices that have the best chance of leading to a favorable outcome. For making decisions faster, you need to set a deadline or block your calendar to help you focus on the problem while avoiding distractions. Second, stop being a perfectionist and try to be more realistic in your problem-solving approach. The truth is that you will most likely not have all information you think you need and will need to embrace uncertainty.
Next, you should understand when and which decisions can be decentralized to reduce unnecessary delays. Decentralized decisions reduce unnecessary delays and improve the flow of work. Agile leaders must understand when and which decisions they must decentralize. Frequent or time-critical decisions that need local context should be decentralized. Other decisions that are long-lasting and have a huge impact should remain centralized.
Sometimes, the problem is having too much data or too many options to choose from. With so much data available at our fingertips, we tend to overthink and have analysis paralysis also called FOBO (Fear of Better Option). In his Ted Talk, Patrick McGinnis explains how to overcome FOBO and make faster decisions.
Embracing Lean-Agile Principles
The Lean-Agile Mindset is the combination of beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes of leaders who embrace the concepts of the Agile Manifesto and Lean thinking. Leadership agility requires leaders to embrace lean thinking and lean principles outlined by the House of Lean such as Kaizen (continuous improvement), respect for people, teamwork, innovation, sustainable flow, and Genchi Genbutsu (go and see). Lean thinking encourages leaders to embrace core values such as respect, integrity, empathy, collaboration, and teamwork.
“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent." - Bill Gates
Agile leaders embrace the values written in the Agile Manifesto and promote the 12 Agile principles across their teams. If you are interested to read about 12 Agile Principles, check out this article on Medium.
Check out my published books on Agile and Lean:
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