Organizational Agility Requires Agile Leadership

 

“As change accelerates, so does uncertainty and novelty: future threats and opportunities are harder to predict, and emerging challenges increasingly include novel elements.  Further, with the globalization of the economy and the spread of connective technologies, it’s increasingly clear that we live in a diverse planetary village where everything is connected with everything else.”  -via Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery For Anticipating and Initiating Change

We live in a world that is constantly under pressure from the continual turbulence created by this accelerated pace of change and the volatility that it invokes, in our organizations, our leadership and our lives.

And it can feel very unsettling…

It’s as if everything we do, create and design now lives in a constant state of beta, especially as we discover what was urgent and necessary today has become irrelevant and unnecessary tomorrow.  Too often we find ourselves in a search for sustainability, in a world that now requires greater agility and adaptability.  Which makes the idea of continuous improvement that much more difficult in the future.  More and more we are finding that adaptability and agility are not just necessary leadership skill-sets, they are vital modern day organizational mindsets.

In the past we built the ship to sustain, now we must build it to adapt.

Unfortunately, in many ways our organizations tend to remain grounded in hierarchical ways of doing and being, steeped in traditional leadership focused linearity and certainty, so focused on providing the best answer that we have often lost sight of whether or not we are even asking the right question(s).  Reframing this will be necessary for the future of our leadership and our organizations.  Especially as Joiner and Josephs share in Leadership Agility we see that, “The pace of change will continue to increase, and the level of complexity and interdependence will continue to grow.”

We have to recognize that permanence is an illusion that today’s VUCA World no longer affords us or our organizations and willingness to proactively adapt and remain agile is necessary to create ongoing relevance.  In most organizations, we continue to try and converge to simple solutions too quickly.  Instead, we must learn, especially in the face of the turbulence created by this accelerated pace of change, to inhale the complexity and spend more time wrestling with big questions.  Which will require today’s leaders to remain learners, focused on enhancing, evolving and engaging new skill-sets and capacities.

In Leadership Agility, Joiner and Josephs discuss that “in turbulent organizational environments (leaders) exhibit four mutually reinforcing competencies:” 

Context-setting agility improves your ability to scan your environment, frame the initiatives you need to take, and clarify the outcomes you need to achieve”

Stakeholder agility increases your ability to engage with key stakeholders in ways that build support for your initiative.”

Creative agility enables you to transform the problems you encounter into the results you need.”

Self-leadership agility is the ability to use your initiatives as opportunities to develop into the kind of leader you want to be.”

As we consider and design our way forward, both as leaders and organizations, the more we enhance our leadership skill-sets and capacities the greater our ability to parallel pace the accelerated pace of change we are faced with in today’s world, the greater our ability to adapt and remain agile in the face of the turbulence created by today’s VUCA World.  The greater our relevance in a world focused on discontinuity and obsolescence.

Which is why consideration of the four competencies above increases our ability to evolve more fluidly into the future, both as organizations and leaders.

“To develop organizations that are effective in anticipating and responding to change and complexity, we need agile leaders – not just at the top but at all organizational levels.”  -via Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery For Anticipating and Initiating Change

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