Agile Leadership

We live and work in a world of never-ending change that is accelerating all the time. This dynamic creates opportunities and challenges for every organization. The capacity to react quickly when a window of opportunity opens and mitigate rapidly approaching storms is vital to long-term success. For a multitude of reasons, more than half of the companies that were on the Fortune 500 list in the year 2000 no longer exist today. This suggests that in order to compete, grow, and avoid extinction, organizations have to be flexible and adapt. Speed and agility are the ultimate competitive weapons. If you create a culture of agility, you create a significant competitive advantage that is hard to replicate.

Realizing the benefits of agility across the enterprise requires individual contributors who can adapt and change as well as agile leaders working in all functions. The concept of agility applies across the for-profit business landscape but also includes non-profit organizations as well as government agencies who need to be more responsive to stakeholders, prepare for emerging challenges, and deliver services that meet or exceed expectations.

Leaders at all levels can develop and enhance their agility with a simple, powerful framework. This framework reflects the skills and mindset leaders can use every day to build an agile organization, solve problems, and deliver results:

1. Observe

Be perceptive and carefully monitor the subtle and emerging changes or shifts in the environment or conditions in which you operate.

2. Interpret

Examine, distill, and interpret observations and data in order to better understand and articulate the changes and forces affecting your work environment. This enables you to formulate conclusions and identify a range of possible options and actions.

3. Decide

Be decisive and quickly make informed choices with your team about next steps and active measures to pursue based on the conclusions and insights from the interpretation of your data.

4. Act

Formulate a goal or desired end result with a practical plan of action that can be rapidly deployed. The actions and go-forward solutions should be based on collaboration with your team and other partners who will support the execution of the change in a fast, fluid, and flexible fashion.

5. Mindset

Adopt an agile mindset and commitment to change and transformation. Think about your work environment from a range of perspectives. Your mindset helps you make sense of the world in which you operate; it influences your decisions, plans, challenges, opportunities, behaviors, and actions. Mindsets are formed from the people we encounter, experiences we have at work, and other aspects of our lives. Mindsets can enable us to think clearly and move rapidly or they can hold us back and limit our agility.

Leaders who consistently use the five elements of the agility framework are able to successfully respond to rapidly changing situations, seize opportunities, cope with threats in their journey to make a difference, and deliver more value to all stakeholders. Developing these skills will change the trajectory of you, your team, and your organization.

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About the Author

Steven Stowell, Ph.D.

Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth. Steve began his career working in the energy industry. During the past 30 years, Steve has consulted with both small and large corporations, government agencies, school systems, and non-profit organizations in 35 different countries. Steve enjoys the challenges of • Helping functional organizations define, create, and execute strategy in order to differentiate the business. • Developing and designing creative and innovative learning experiences, simulations, and keynote presentations. • Helping functions across the organization be more effective and aligned in executing long-term plans. The centerpiece of Steve’s consulting, learning, and executive coaching work is his advocacy of applied research and data collection. Steve is a highly effective presenter and facilitator and enjoys creating customized solutions, assisting senior teams, defining strategic direction from the individual level to the corporate and business-unit level, and improving teams that are faced with important challenges and issues.