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Building Future Fit Teams: Are you an Agile Leader?

We are standing on the brink looking down at the abyss that is this “New World.” So let me ask you this… when the waters settle enough for you to see your reflection, who is looking back at you?

An Agile Leader ready to adjust in response to our dynamic environment, or the face of irrelevance?

Agility is now a core competence. Let me clarify, agility and adaptability have always been a core competence for leaders. It’s just that the world is changing faster than we ever imagined it could and therefore greater emphasis is being placed on agility.

This is because agility is about how fast we are able to adjust our paradigms and behaviours in response to changes in our environment. To me this means the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn…at a rate of knots these days!

Being “Change Fit” is key to our future survival. With our current pace of change we need to make sure that our teams are able to navigate through the “Valley of despair.” Intact. Engaged. Empowered!

I have just spent the last 6 days facilitating the latest round of my Change Agility workshops for one of my clients, specifically in the operations space. What always surprises is that until “they” enter my workshop “they” have to a large extent chosen to stay oblivious to the changes we are already experiencing, especially when it comes to automation.

Now I’m not saying “they” are not aware of these, I’m just saying “they” are not sure how to respond it’s as though “they” are in freeze mode. Simply choosing not to act, sticking their heads deeper into the sand hoping to go unnoticed until such time as this “future” has come and gone.

Then I got to thinking…and reflecting… it’s actually not just “Them” it’s me too. In fact I’ll take a safe bet that it’s the majority of us.

As much as what we are excited about the future and aware of the benefits that come with automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, we are terrified. Actually, overwhelmed would be a better word.

Change is really hard. Being agile and adaptive definitely takes its toll and to be honest I’m not sure how prepared we are for this. We struggle with change at the best of times. We like predictability. We like to be in control. I’m not sure if either of these can exist in the VUCA world.

Having said this we can now see why agility is now topping the list.

But what makes today’s agile leader different? Surely if this was always a competence required we shouldn’t expect too much to shift?

The difference is that our teams are different, our people are different, and therefore the way we lead needs an overhaul.

We have entered the “Age of Agile” and this means not only adopting agile methods and tools but most importantly it means shifting our underlying values and beliefs, which direct our behaviour. Especially when it comes to our leadership behavior.

If we look at the Agile Manifesto, we can see the huge mental shifts required within our traditional and linear organisations so heavily driven by processes, tools and long term plans. This “new” agile way can be translated into 6 Agile Leadership Behaviours:

  1. Openness to new ways and ideas: This refers to the leader that is able to listen to their team, they respect the knowledge and experience that their team brings. When a leader displays openness they demonstrate their willingness to experiment and cultivate a culture in which their people are unafraid to fail.
  2. Adaptive Collaboration: The agile leader understands the power of collaboration especially in unstructured and constantly changing environments. They know that collaboration allows each team member to play to their strengths, and they understand the creativity that results from the “productive rub” often experienced between team members.
  3.  Reflects, adapts, and anticipates: The Agile Leader is comfortable with adjusting their objectives and plans to accommodate changes and to ensure successful outcomes. They use new ideas to reengineer work processes, change resource allocation and anticipate the potential impact of change. Most importantly they adapt their own behaviour, before expecting the team to change theirs.
  4.  Embracing of the New (technology): This is a big one! The Agile Leader needs to be digitally literate. They need to be aware of what is going on in the tech world and how advancements will impact and benefit them. They also need to show a willingness to experiment with new systems, processes, technology, and ideas.
  5.  Holds space and focus for team: The Agile Leader is clear on what a successful outcome looks like. They are able to stay focused and keep their team motivated in achieving the said objective. This ability to hold vision and motivate to action is especially important during times of uncertainty.
  6.  Comfortable with Ambiguity: The Agile Leader is able to manage their response to ambiguity. They understand the difference between what’s in their circle of control and influence vs their circle of concern. And they actively manage how they respond to this dynamic environment.

    Adapted from:
    As we can see the “Agile Leader” stands in contrast to their traditional counterparts. They recognise that leadership is a fluid concept. The days of being the fearless leader out in front, commanding and controlling the direction your team takes are over.

Instead the Agile Leader understands the power of the collective. Collaboration is their compass and communication their True North. They work alongside their teams, together solving problems, together deciding on the direction to take.

Together they fail, together they learn. Collectively they succeed.

Kerryn Kohl “big chief little ego” of The Coaching House – Talent Cultivation. Kerryn is an organisational behaviourist and learning strategist, focusing on the interface between human behaviour and the digitally emergent organisation. A design thinker by nature. 
You may meet Kerryn at Talenttalks Africa 2017. She is a regular Talent Talks contributor and very popular with our readers.

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