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Unlocking leadership agility

Unlocking leadership agility
Published: August 4, 2020
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Impact define leadership agility as the ability to react quickly with adaptive and decisive leadership action to successfully address real-time challenges in your environment. As you can imagine, 2020 has amplified the number of requests to equip organisations around the world with the skills needed to respond effectively to rapid change.

While there is no quick fix that solves the need for increased leadership agility, there is a path to developing the skills, behaviours, and mindset necessary to build the reflexive, adaptive, and decisive action that creates agile leaders and agile organisations. Just like courage and leadership, agility isn’t confined to personality traits - it is primarily, and most effectively, a form of action that is made habitual by practicing over time. Leadership agility is not something we have, it is something we do. It requires a development of core strength and muscle memory - skills and tools we learn to leverage more quickly as a result of hard work and practice. In these turbulent times, organisations can’t rely on the ‘agile’ few who have experienced crisis before and are adept at finding the answers in amongst the chaos, we all need to develop our own awareness, responsiveness and collaborative approach to prepare ourselves for what’s coming our way.

To illuminate and make accessible this path to individual and organisational agility, Impact has designed the Leadership Agility Framework. This framework provides five key drivers which combine to develop a leader’s core strength for adapting and responding quickly and effectively to disruption and rapid change. By exploring each of the five drivers, individuals will not only develop the muscle memory that makes effective action possible, but will also create a powerful feedback loop to ensure that learning from one situation is quickly assimilated and applied to future challenges. The five drivers are:

Readiness and scanning

This driver is focused on looking ahead, preparing, and actively seeking information that will help leaders contextualise situations and anticipate future opportunities. Experience and insights gained from the other drivers are assimilated here and inform and strengthen future action.

Awareness and self-management

This driver helps leaders find balance in disruption by exploring their personal orientation towards different situations. Using reflection and dialogue, leaders can consider biases and preferences, develop strategies for monitoring their reactions and approach, and enable agility in others. The core skills of leadership action – the ability to notice, decide and act to provide meaning, value and structure for others, at pace ­– also inform this driver.

Communicating and inspiring

In the face of disruption and rapid change, leaders need to provide information and guidance to help others understand the situation and its impact, as well as the objectives, actions and roles that are required to move forward. By helping others to make sense of context, purpose and direction, the leader is better able to engage and empower them to take effective and productive action at pace.  ​

Adaptive action

Fixed mindsets will not enable a leader to flex and move fast enough in disruptive times. This driver challenges the leader to broaden their thinking by taking a more holistic view of their current context, considering which leadership skill sets and behaviours are required. This driver is action-focused and emphasises the need to quickly identify levels of risk before initiating change and shifting direction quickly. The concept of ‘fail fast and learn’ underpins this driver.

Collaboration and integration

A leader’s ability to align their leadership action across the business, with a clear view of the interdependencies and needs of others, will better enable cooperation. This driver is focused on action that connects people, systems, and the organisation as a whole. It recognises that collaboration and integration are dynamic processes, requiring leaders to make real-time adjustments, and it focuses on applying learning to enable continued agility, muscle memory and core strength. ​

Time to reflect... Leadership agility must be built up through practice. Learning does not flow automatically from experience; it must be drawn out through an intentional process of reflection and experimentation. Consider the core strengths you have demonstrated through the pandemic. Which of the five drivers have you had at the forefront of your thinking, and which get de-prioritised? Reflecting on your experience in relation to each of the five drivers and converting these reflections into intentional action will help you to effectively meet the needs of today whilst strengthening the foundations needed to operate in the unpredictable and rapidly evolving post-COVID world.

Get in touch to find out more about how Impact is helping leaders to quickly develop and lead their teams with the agility that this crisis demands.