Leadership agility

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by Stephane Leblanc

It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones that are most capable to adapt to change. - Charles Darwin

How do you react to change? Do you welcome it with an open mind and embrace it with joy? Do you fear it as you think of all the extra work you will have to do to adapt to it? Do you reject it as you are already too busy that you are not willing to consider how this change might improve your life in the long term?

If there is one constant in business it is that it is always changing. And with the ever increasing advances in technology, change is accelerating more and more. New companies are being formed everyday and become global players rapidly. Air BnB is the largest hotel chain in the world, yet owns no buildings. Uber is the largest taxi company in the world, yet owns no cars. Netflix has basically eliminated the video rental stores in just a few years and has grown from 26 millions users in 2012 to 94 millions in 2016.

In addition to this, there are many disruptive innovations coming soon that will impact our lives in a meaningful way such as: the quantified self, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, robotics and AI, the internet of things and augmented reality.

The secret of change is to focus on the future instead of being attached to the past. - Socrates

What are the major changes that will completely disrupt your industry? How are you getting ready for them? How are you making your organization agile ? How are you developing leadership agility in your team?

We live in a VUCA world. This is a term that was developed by the Navy Seals to describe how the wars are fought in our modern world. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

In order to be able to respond to a VUCA world, we need to develop organizational agility. An organization ability to sense, respond and adapt to change quickly and confidently.   

Sensing includes our ability to anticipate changes, listen to trends, innovate at the edges, track leading indicators and use predictive analytics.

Responding includes rapid prototyping, decentralized decision making, assessing results and modifying experiments.

Adapting includes reconfiguring operations, scaling or shrinking on demand and embracing continuous improvement.

An organization is agile when it is able to experiment, has an increased speed to market, can scale up or down rapidly, can make decisions based on insight and is able to reconfigure operations quickly.

We also need to develop leadership agility, the master competency needed for sustained success in today’s turbulent economy.

In their book called Leadership agility, Bill Joiner and Stephen Joseph describe three types of leaders: the expert, the achiever and the catalyst.

The expert has a tactical problem solving orientation and believes that leaders are followed by others because of their technical expertise and positional authority. He avoids giving or receiving feedback and his primary focus is on incremental improvements.  

The achiever has strategic outcomes orientation and believes that leaders motivate others by making work challenging and satisfying. He accepts feedback if helpful to achieve desired outcomes and seeks to get others buy-in to own views. 

The catalyst has a visionary, facilitative orientation and believes that leaders articulate an innovative and inspiring vision and bring together the right people to transform this vision into reality. He empowers others and develops them and is genuinely interested in learning from diverse viewpoints.

The catalyst is the type of leader that is the most agile and the best equipped to adapt to change and organizations must work to develop these leadership skills in their leader if they want to develop their corporate leadership agility.

In their book, Joiner and Joseph also describe the four components of leadership agility: context setting agility, stakeholder agility, creative agility and self-leadership agility.

Context setting agility is the ability to scan your environment, anticipate important changes, decide on what initiatives to take, scope each initiative and determine your desired outcomes.

Stakeholder agility is the ability to assess the alignment between your objectives and your stakeholders objectives and find ways to increase the alignment.

Creative agility is the ability to use both critical and breakthrough thinking in problem solving to generate uniquely appropriate responses to challenges. 

Self-leadership agility is the ability to determine the kind of leader you want to be and use your everyday leadership initiatives to experiment towards those aspirations, reflect on your experience and fine-tune the changes you would like to make .

Agile leaders are able to sense and respond to changes in the business environment with actions that are focused, fast and flexible. They enable employees to shift their mindsets and skills so they can anticipate and be ready for change.

Change will continue to accelerate. With the internet of things, IBM predicts that the totality of human knowledge which currently doubles every 13 months will soon double every 12 hours.

Conscious leaders are agile leaders and organizations that do not commit to become agile organizations and develop agile leaders will soon become extinct.

Become agile and thrive.

Love heals.