THE world as we know it is changing and so must our ways of doing work as well as our ways of leading in organisations. As we experience the new, we need to adopt a leadership style that caters for the fast changing ways of doing work until we settle into a new normal.
Stakeholders’ demand patterns are evolving rapidly with the introduction of concepts such as disruptive technology and digitisation of business. Established businesses and industries are being commoditised or replaced through digitisation, bio-science advancements, the innovative use of new models and automation.
With the accelerating digitisation and democratisation of information, new boundaries that protect organisation’s intellectual property must be set in place and leaders that understand the need for coopetition (collaboration between business competitors, in the hope of mutually beneficial results) rather than competition must be found in every organisation. The increased volume, transparency, and distribution of information require organisations to rapidly engage in multi-directional communication and complex collaboration with customers, partners and colleagues.
As the need for creative knowledge and evolution towards learning-based tasks become more rampant, organisations must present a distinct value proposition to acquire – and retain – the best talent, which is often more diverse. These “learning workers” often have more diverse origins, thoughts, composition, and experience and may have different desires (for example, millennials).
They will also thrive under a different style of management from the ones most leaders are known to exercise. All these silently radical changes usher in the need for agile leadership.
Today’s leader must learn to be present to gain insights into all these changes happening in the business world. Ordinarily, being strategic is critical to success, however, it is just as important, if not more so, to lead effectively in the present moment. Being present creates greater awareness in addressing the right challenges facing your team.
An agile leader is one who inspires creativity and innovation in the team they are leading. It is not enough to establish new methods of doing work, one must ensure that this is constantly improved upon. As such, leaders must inspire creativity and innovation within employees so that, as the organisation propels forward, employees are directly contributing.
Giving employees some of the decision-making power in terms of how and when they should deliver results gives them a strong sense of ownership. This is turn improves their engagement and commitment to the organisation.
With digitisation and automation, the speed of doing business and changes to such improves greatly. To be agile means to be able to move fast. In most instances organisation’s factor in turnaround times for delivery on projects as part of their value proposition. This shows simply that speed is often essential to business success.
When a company moves fast to solve a problem, create a product or respond to a need, this gives them the proverbial competitive advantage over others – this often becomes the business that wins. Agile leadership is critical in such an instance as the agile leader will understand the need for the organisation to remain the front runner in their business and so will avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and protocol in the organisation.
The agile leader must be able to look at the big picture objectively, breaking it down into small manageable chunks. This makes one more productive as the smaller milestones are easier to conquer as opposed to one mammoth task. When the leader implements small portions of a plan, it becomes easier to identify where adjustments should be made to manage resource drainage and improve systems efficiency.
The agile leaders thrives in the face of uncertainty and rapid change because they are constantly ready to face a new challenge, adopt a new way of thinking or of doing business and to accommodate input from their team members. It is easier for them to manage on a day-to-day basis because they take an approach that allows them to adopt through implementing frequent, incremental changes that constantly produce value. As a result, they are constantly winning in the face of adversity.
A lot of leaders today are die-hard fans of their tried and tested methods of leading and managing. Being agile means they must be willing and able to quickly let go of what is not working and try something else. It also requires them to be able to move on and not return too quickly to those tried and tested ways.
We have all been taught that we must believe strongly in our beliefs, however, it is also true that once accepted, beliefs can become a reality that is hard to alter. The agile leader must embrace the paradigm shifts as they happen in order for them to remain effective.
The world we exist in requires us to doubt a leader who is anything but consistent, firm and resolute. However, we also live in a fast-paced and chaotic environment with few constants. Therefore, leaders who are firm may appear strong, but they often fail to adapt and often lose their reputation as an effective leader.
The ability to listen, learn and adapt one’s position is a valuable skill that requires vulnerability, confidence and psychological safety. As well as the ability to sift information that is useful to the organisation from the information that is coming at them from all directions.
We must not lose the plot and become over agile, as it will only result in a chaotic and haphazard way of leading our organisations. Agility is not an excuse for chaos, continual pivoting without strategy or indecision on your team. In today’s world, it is a defined and strategic approach to effective leadership.
Karen Manyati is the director of Zimbabwe Leadership Forum and writes in her personal capacity. She can be reached on [email protected]