4 Tips for Leading with Agility During Complex & Uncertain Times

Last week, I wrote about leading in our new normal and the future world of work and focused mainly on the skills required to be effective no matter what the circumstances are. We are hearing and seeing a tremendous amount of research and insights on this topic because it is relevant and topical right now, considering what we are going through.

As a leader, you might be naturally inclined to keep things as simple as possible, especially now because people are over stimulated, Zoomed out and overworked. You might also have a gift for seeing the big picture and for being able to paint meaningful representations of your vision with broad strokes, whether that is in person or remotely. Your employees surely appreciate your ability to convey your organization’s mission in this way because it helps them focus on what is necessary to achieve success. However, you have probably noticed that the farther we travel into the hyper-connected, high-tech modern business world, the more difficult it is to keep things simple.

Our world is becoming more increasingly complex. Technology has played a major role, but globalization, regulation and a host of other factors, have also contributed to greater levels of complexity in business. Additionally, the speed with which business is expected to happen these days is light years ahead of the pace we all became accustomed to as we began to rise through the ranks.

Leaders need to understand and embrace the ever-increasing complexity of modern business and technology as I pointed out last week. They cannot be successful by trying to implement backward-looking strategies. They cannot lead effectively by ignoring rapid advances in technology and communication. And they certainly cannot achieve their organization’s mission by stubbornly insisting on doing things a certain way for the sake of tradition.

If you are a leader, you must adapt to the nature of modern business with an eye on the future. You need to be smart and demonstrate a capacity for continuous learning. And most of all, you must be agile.

I am going to be brutally honest. I do not mean to offend anyone, but I often hear from executives and leaders that agility is in their company’s DNA. They share that they know how to be innovative, nimble and make things happen. However, this typically refers to companies with IT teams who have adopted traditional agile methodology, yet the rest of the organization lacks an agility focus.  

What Does it Mean to Be Agile in Business?

In an organizational sense, agility describes the ability to respond quickly and nimbly by adapting to changes in the market and/or the environment in a manner that retains and enhances productivity and overall effectiveness.

For leaders, agility means being able to guide their organizations through ever-accelerating changes and increases in uncertainty, volatility and complexity. They must embody and personify the values that they want their teams and organizations to exemplify through normal and turbulent times. And they must develop a “sixth sense” that allows them to anticipate changes quickly with an ability to respond with focus, flexibility and speed.

Agile leaders are not afraid to tap into their creativity, and they know how to think outside the box when innovative solutions are required. They don’t waste time mulling over decisions or making difficult choices — they understand that the ability to take quick, decisive action is an extremely valuable commodity now and will continue to be in the future.

Agile leaders also know how to communicate masterfully. They understand how to engage employees and other stakeholders. They listen actively, and they ask great questions. Agile leaders are never satisfied with the status quo; they thrive on being challenged, and they understand that the most difficult problems are those that promise the most meaningful rewards, once solved.

Do you have what it takes to be an agile leader in increasingly complex and uncertain times? I believe you do, and it just takes a willingness to adapt and a desire to do what’s necessary to excel during those moments, and to also take advantage of maintaining that mindset no matter what the circumstances are.  

4 Tips for Improving Your Leadership Agility

#1 — Become a Master of Observation

Agile leadership requires constant learning and adapting. You cannot go through the motions with blinders on; you must be aware of what is happening around you. Pay attention to what people are saying and how they present themselves with their body language and facial expressions. Whether you are interacting onsite or remotely, be mindful of the general mood or tone you are picking up from people. Actively look for inspiration everywhere — this means paying attention to people outside the workplace, too. The modern business environment rewards creativity and innovation, so expand your observation to include the pieces of wisdom and excellent ideas that come from other areas of your life.

#2 — Constant Growth & Development

Becoming more agile isn’t just about learning new skills and techniques; it means strengthening and sharpening your existing skill set. Revisit your core skills and areas of knowledge and pay attention to those aspects of yourself that may have become a bit rusty over time. Regardless of the increasing complexity and uncertainty of the world around you, confidence always equates to effective leadership. Therefore, you need to keep exercising the muscles that allowed you to reach your current level of leadership.

#3 — Leverage Your Intuition

These days there simply isn’t enough time to overanalyze and perform endless research before making decisions. You have to be able to trust your gut and follow your heart. Your intuition will guide you, but you should listen to understand what it’s telling you. Be aware of the steps you take in your decision-making process. Are you always arriving at the place your intuition told you to go in the first place? If so, you can streamline your process and lean more on your intuition to guide your decisions.

#4 — Build Teams Made Up of Agile Individuals

The people who surround you should be able to support and complement your efforts when it comes to operating with greater agility. Look around you and notice how the people on your teams operate. Are they stuck in rigid patterns of behavior and workflow? Or do they display the ability to work flexibly and productively through a wide range of changes and challenges? The fact is that you probably have a combination of these types of people on your team. Work with the more rigid types to improve their flexibility. Assure them that their ability to operate effectively within a simple, defined structure is valuable, but challenge them to become more adept at hitting curve balls. At the same time, nurture the skills of those on your team who demonstrate a clear ability to operate with agility. They can increase your collective potential tremendously, and they represent the next generation of leadership for you to develop within your organization.

Need More Help with Leadership Agility?

I hope this advice is beneficial to you during these complex and uncertain times. Of course, these are just a few useful tips. Becoming a truly agile leader takes practice, time and commitment, and it is always nice to have a helpful hand to help coach and guide you.

If you are curious about how you can improve your leadership agility, or if you’re wondering how you can make the leaders within your organization more agile, I would love to talk with you! Just give me a call at 1.855.871.3374 or send me an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca.

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