“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent.” – Bill Gates.

All around the world, workplaces are changing the way they operate. Gone are the days when organisations were bound to work in line with monotonous rules day after day.  Today, emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, RPA, etc., are changing the way organisations work and interact with each other.


Accelerating change and growing interdependence amongst organisations are major factors that are turning leadership agility into a skill that is most sought after. In fact, according to a global study conducted by the London School of Economics, organisations who embraced agility demonstrated 53% higher productivity, 38% higher employee satisfaction and 31% higher customer satisfaction as compared to their non-agile counterparts. How does this one skill positively impact an organisation? Let’s delve into the details.


What is Leadership Agility?

Leadership Agility is the ability demonstrated by leaders of an organisation to take the most effective actions during complex, rapidly changing workplace conditions. It is the ability to be agile, to adapt and respond to change.


Identifying the growing demand for Leadership Agility, ChangeWise, a Boston-based leadership, and organisational development firm conducted a 5-year investigation on this topic. Published in Joiner and Josephs, 2007, this article revealed that Leadership Agility is the ability to take ‘reflective action’ – to step back from one’s current focus, gain a broader, deeper perspective, then refocus and take action that is informed by this larger perspective.


According to a global survey conducted by ‘The Economist’, 9 out of 10 executives believe organizational agility is critical to business success. These findings echo that of a previous survey conducted by McKinsey (2010).


In today’s workplace, the concept of Leadership Agility is everywhere. In fact, agility at the workplace is synonymous with Darwin’s theory. His evolutionary theory was put forth way before workplaces got competitive, but its principles can be applied to the current workplace. The theory may differ, but its essence stays true to succeeding at today’s workplace – ‘adapt or get left behind’.


Why Leadership Agility?

“The future is all about having great leaders who can drive agile innovation and agile decision making.” – Steve Ballmer.


According to Dr. Nick Horney, founder of Agility Consulting and Training, today’s world can be described as VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). The old laws no longer apply here. It is a rapidly changing world with informational overload. Organisations are faced with the challenge to identify and absorb these changes and respond by operating with the same speed. In such a world, leaders skilled at Leadership Agility can predict change, take proactive actions and make quick, effective decisions thereby building high performing teams.


Agile leaders nurture teams motivated by a higher purpose – one which aligns with an organisation’s goals. The agile leader builds an agile team. Together they drive the organisation towards progress amid complexity and rapid change. For such teams, no obstacle is too big. Agile teams identify pitfalls and come up with creative solutions to leap over tall obstacles. They branch out to establish increased organizational agility to ultimately improve business performance. This can be explained by the figure below;


A Schematic Representation of How Leadership Agility Drives Organisation Agility.

leadership agility

Image Source: Medium


How do agile leaders steer success?

Studies demonstrate that agile leadership focuses on 3 core areas as highlighted below:


An Agile Leadership’s Focus.

Image Source: Scrum


Culture – Building and nurturing a ‘culture’ that thrives on experimentation and learning.

Goals – Collaborating with employees (at all levels in the organization) & finding common values to create greater ‘goals’ for the company and the teams; and

Organization – Creating an ‘organizational’ structure that reinforces and rewards the other two dimensions.


Apart from the highlighted core areas, agile leaders foster a thriving culture within an organisation, one that supports learning, constantly seeking better outcomes and better methods of achieving success. While agile leaders create highly agile teams, they also dictate the scalability of agility in an organisation.


Large agile teams need stronger agile leaders to support and reward experimentation instead of just tolerating it. Therefore, it is often seen that organisations who struggle with agility lack strong agile leadership to guide their teams. The book, ‘Leadership Agility’ by Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs highlights the fact that only 10% of managers can avoid burnout in today’s turbulent workplace and have truly mastered leadership agility.


Are today’s organisations equipped with agile leaders?

83% of the respondents of a study by Forbes cited that the Agile Mindset/Flexibility was the most important characteristic for executives. In the current VUCA world, change is hard, but it is soon turning into the new normal. Organisations need to embrace change through leaders equipped with Leadership Agility in order to thrive. Those struggling with organization agility need to pause, step back, take a hard look over their problem areas and educate their senior leaders and executives.


At XEd Institute of Management, we help organisations analyse their problems and provide solutions by educating their senior leaders with the help of our unique ‘IDEA’ framework. We believe that the only way to deliver a truly effective custom program is to make it as unique as the organization for which it is designed.


With an experience of over 2400 days of custom programs, 4320 senior leader attendees, 16+ B Schools and, 74+ Top global faculty members, XEd is a pioneer in providing customized executive education. To know more about XEd, visit Xed.co.in

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