Today’s organizational leaders are facing accelerating rates of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, all of which are showing no signs of slowing down. Whether it is the continuing digital revolution or expanding global markets, our current environment requires a constant state of innovation. For companies to continue succeeding, next generation leaders must be able to handle any curve ball thrown their way. Leading through this new business environment requires the capability to sense and respond to changes in the business environment with actions that are focused, fast and flexible. The best way to put it: next generation leaders have to be agile.
Now, the question becomes, what does leadership agility look like? Next gen leaders must be able to proficiently move, change and evolve the organization. Agile leaders are creative thinkers with a deep sense of purpose. They show a propensity and ability to move into action and make decisions, and their implementation often results in greater learning. Agile leaders actively engage diverse stakeholders, influencing and studying them simultaneously. This individual is not an average employee; they “seek pain to learn.” Agile individuals are motivated by expanding their knowledge, questioning the status quo, and actively migrate towards challenges. They thrive off of solving the difficult problems within the organization, as they believe it mutually benefits themself and the company. They enjoy getting through in the deep end of the worst problems.
Sure. This sounds like every executive’s dream employee. However, the conundrum is that very few professionals possess this rare business acumen. We would estimate that only about 10 percent of today’s employees having the appropriate levels of “leadership agility” that is needed; seeking out this particular individual from a pool of candidates is no easy task.
One comprehensive way to look at it is in the diagram below by Nick Horney and Tom O’Shea from Agility Consulting with co-author Bill Pasmore from the Centre for Creative Leadership. They argue that for agility to become a strategic asset to the organization, the proposed leader must have traits of both High Agility and High Performance. They have the ability to take on major assignments in a variety of departments. They anticipate and take action, pushing through and leading the trends that change and impact the organization. While ideally this would be a leader already within an organization, it is often not the case. A leader may focus more heavily on performance, or contrarily have greater agility. In some industries and firms, high performance is all that is needed and agility is not called for. However, in our experience, this is less and less the norm.
We believe that with the guidance of top executives, agile leaders can be developed internally. By identifying and developing high-potential talent, businesses can improve responsiveness to company and marketplace shifts and thereby their ability to deliver strategic priorities. Having an agile leader on the team takes the company from good to great. These individuals are focused, confident and driven to lead. While they may be hard to come by, taking the time to seek them out is worth your while.
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