Agility: A Strategic Leader’s Edge

When it comes to putting their teams in the position to win, agility gives strategic leaders an edge.

In business, agility is the capacity to respond rapidly when an opportunity arises. It’s also having the flexibility needed to make course corrections when executing a project plan. Agile leaders are nimble and move fast when problems emerge or action is needed to jump on a creative idea.

Too often, leaders have not fully developed the level of agility and speed needed to address business challenges. If the rate of change inside of the organization doesn’t exceed the rate of change in the external business environment, the business will lose every time. You must be able to keep up with your external customers’ demands and your competition.

Agility is the speed at which you recognize and respond to a needed shift in direction. People who compete in yacht races call it “seeing the shift.” This might refer to seeing the wind shift, seeing the water’s current change, or spotting a competitor’s moves. You must always be ready to respond when signals indicate something needs to be examined or dealt with.

Agile leaders pay attention to what is working and what isn’t. They monitor a continual stream of data to stay aware of how things are progressing and any changes that might be needed. Our work at CMOE has taught us that agility is comprised of five interrelated talents that work in combination to form this strategic-leadership trait.

Traits of an agile leader

1) You need to be built for speed

Joseph Addison said it well: “He who hesitates is lost.” What you need is the ability to move fast when action is needed and just get cracking. You must be able to quickly make an adjustment and rapidly pursue a smart idea.

2) You need dexterity

Strategic leaders often have a high level of mastery in their chosen profession or field. They use their intellectual talent to mobilize resources while pursuing opportunities and overcoming obstacles that require a rapid response. Leaders with dexterity assess situations, reframe their options, and move quickly. They can spot the silver linings in otherwise-gloomy situations.

3) You need to be open to new ideas

Agile leaders are comfortable letting go of the old way of doing things or the way it has always been done. They feel confident learning a new way of approaching business and realize openness to new ideas is critical to long-term success.

4) You need to be able to shift back and forth between short- and long-term work

Strategically agile leaders can comfortably shift from day-to-day, operational work to long-term, strategic thinking. With some deliberate thought and effort, all leaders can find a little space in the course of a day, week, or month to shift their mindset. The ability to see both the mundane, everyday activities and the long-term future leads to higher strategic performance.

5) You need to be able to respond effectively to the unexpected

You can’t ever know everything, but you must be able to anticipate the unexpected and build surprises and contingencies into your plans. Keep your eye on the picture of the future you want to create and adjust your actions when needed.

Building your strategic agility as a leader can be very exciting and provide possibilities that only the best leaders can capture. At CMOE, we can help you increase your “flex-agility.” Contact us to learn more.

Related Services:

About the Author


CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.