Much is being said about the need for agile leaders as companies grapple with operating in an increasingly disrupted workplace. Militaristic leaders who have been used to occupying positions of power and control which gave them privileges and protection from the real world are gasping for air as they are overwhelmed by the waves of change. That’s because they are not agile leaders.
Agility can be defined as the ability to think, understand and move quickly. Traditionally, agility – like mental and physical agility – has favoured the young, but that need not necessarily be so. Anybody, at any age, can be an agile leader if they think, understand and move quickly in order to take people to a better reality. In fact, a leader with significant work experience, who is also agile, is a formidable leader because they have the combination of experience and speed.
Agile leaders are a new breed of leaders. They’re emotionally intelligent, in touch with who they are as human beings and, because of this, in touch with other people. They’re resilient and resourceful, so are able to remain calm no matter what the situation, and come up with innovative, practical ways to not only deal with unexpected circumstances (disruption) but also to thrive in an ever changing environment.
Do this test to see if you qualify as an agile leader. The answers are Yes/No answers. To qualify for a “Yes” answer, you must be able to give at least three reasons for your answer. If you can’t, the answer is “No”.
1 Do you have an ego?
2 Would others describe you as kind?
3 Do you adapt to change very easily?
4 Are you courageous?
5 Have you been responsible for innovation of any sort in your company?
6 Are you able to bounce back from setbacks or failures?
7 Are you fully aware of the latest trends and developments in your field?
8 Are you aware of global trends and developments in the workplace?
9 Do you have a genuine love for people?
10 Are you comfortable collaborating with colleagues and/or those who report to you?
If you answered “Yes” for eight or more, you’re an agile leader. If not, you now know the areas you need to work on.
Regarding each of the above questions …
Leaders who have an ego aren’t humble and are sensitive to criticism so they will be more focused on defending and justifying their actions than listening to what they’re being told. They will never reflect and become more enlightened, and will therefore not be able to respond quickly to changing needs.
Leaders who are kind have empathy and compassion, which will win them loyalty and trust, resulting in a workforce that will tend to be a lot more productive and profitable than a workforce that is working for a hardened, unkind leader. They will therefore be able to achieve more, faster.
Leaders who can’t adapt to change reveal their inflexibility and a desire for things to stay as they are. Such leaders will simply not be able to lead a company into an uncertain future because they are more intent on preserving the status quo than adapting to the changes that are an inevitable fact of life.
Leaders who lack courage will not be able to make bold decisions that require a certain amount of risk. They will instead be risk aversive and consequently prefer to avoid taking key decisions where necessary.
Leaders who have introduced some form of innovation in the companies demonstrate an ability to interpret new needs very quickly and respond to them promptly.
Agile leaders are said to fail quickly – they fail, learn a number of lessons very quickly, and come back stronger by turning the failure into an asset rather than a liability.
Leaders who are unaware of the latest developments in their field are not in touch with evolving trends and are in no place to respond to, or leverage, the trends to their company’s advantage.
A leader who is not aware of macro trends around the globe will never respond to trends in his/her particular field, causing them and their team to fall further and further behind the curve.
Leaders who are militaristic consider emotions such as love, empathy and compassion as weakness. In a military context, that might well be so. The world of work is however becoming increasingly demilitarised, giving leaders who demonstrate love the edge over their cold counterparts.
Leaders who want to be sole decision makers will isolate themselves from those they are leading. Leaders who have the ability to tap into the vast collective skills and insights of all their people, regardless of age and status are able to benefit from the massive resources available in the company.
The ten points above merely provide a context for the questions and answers. If you have no ego, chances are you will answer the questions honestly. If you do have an ego, you will probably deny it and kid yourself that you’re agile – and you will continue being a rigid leader. And rigidity is one of the signs of rigour mortice.
If you exercise your mind towards becoming more agile, you will open up significant opportunities for your company and yourself. It’s worth it. We need more agile leaders!