April 2012

Are You an Agile Leader?

In my work over the past several years coaching leaders, I’ve reached the conclusion that there’s just a few essential skills that separate the really effective leaders from those that aren’t. Creating positive change is on top of the list, and doing that well involves the skill of agility.

It’s the ability to lead well through a wide range of circumstances – especially when leading change. You can spot an agile leader because they are flexible, balanced, quick, graceful, and able to work effectively with uncertainty and ambiguity.

Here are some of my favorite definitions of agility with respect to leadership:

  • Capacity to be flexible and resourceful in the face of ever-changing conditions
  • The ability to move with an easy grace
  • The ability to weave together and make sense of apparently disjointed pieces, crafting innovative solutions
  • Ability to change position rapidly and accurately without losing balance

One thing we know for sure… business change is here to stay. If businesses want to succeed managing at the pace of change, then "change management" may have much more to do with improving how we lead than about managing the change. And that’s where the skill of agility comes in.

Many of the leaders I work with struggle with leading change effectively. They talk about change and more change to come, but their most important business outcomes rely on creating innovative new products, or creating a cultural shift to enable their success. If we consider the desired outcomes, then their focus should include a variety of ideas and approaches to be sure people are engaged in doing those things that will create the valuable results – not simply on trying to manage the changes.

So instead of relying on a linear set of academic change steps, an agile leader will address the situation with a variety of perspectives, ideas and solutions. They try different approaches, and move gracefully with the needs.

Ana Dutra, CEO of Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting summed it up beautifully by noting in Forbes (April 2011), “Agile Leaders are those who ‘figure it out’, who ‘get it’, when faced with new and challenging situations. Agile Leaders are not only fast and effective problem solvers when dealing with situations they’ve never dealt with before, but they are also laser-focused on results and excellent at reshaping plans and priorities when faced with unexpected changes in the environment. They are resourceful and competitive. And, they get it done fast.

Agile leaders are not only exceptional at coping with change, but also in driving it, many times anticipating market trends or, even better, creating new trends. They have high tolerance for ambiguity and are actually thrilled by the possibility of creating the new and different. Most importantly, not only do agile leaders have all the above characteristics, but they also possess a high dose of self-awareness and awareness of others.”

Try these seven ideas to begin improving your leadership agility:

  1. Watch out for limiting beliefs and reactive tendencies – Review your mental scripts and how they inform your behaviors
  2. Don’t be limited by one approach – Take a hard look at your style and see how adaptable you are in various situations
  3. Surprise yourself with breakthrough thinking and involvement of others – intentionally take yourself out of your comfort zone and explore new approaches
  4. Ask better questions – be willing to examine all facets of a situation to create success
  5. Imagine you get replaced today– How would your successor improve things?
  6. Anticipate change in everything you do
  7. Hire a great coach!

When you’re finished changing… You’re finished. – Benjamin Franklin

Struggling with leadership effectiveness or business change?

If you’re looking to enhance your leadership effectiveness and would like some help to get the results you’re looking to achieve, I’d love to talk with you. I help leaders to successfully navigate the challenges of making change to achieve the results they want. Visit my website www.terrihughes.com for details, free resources and to schedule a complimentary consultation to move you forward!



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