In wise words of Rosalynn Carter, "A leader takes people where they want to go. A great A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be."
Leadership is the ability of an individual or organization to guide, inspire, and motivate other individuals, teammates, or other organizations to act towards achieving a common goal. It is a unique ability to unite individuals, colleagues, workers to equip them with a strategized plan to meet the needs and demands of the company.
Thus, the leader's adaptability skills or lack thereof – can either create a huge void amongst the teammates and lead the project towards failure or can set up the team on the road to glory and success. Agility is the driving force of good leadership skills. Leadership agility is suppleness and quick-wittedness to anticipate change and adapt and react accordingly.
We reached out to experienced trainers of the industry to get an in-depth understanding of the role of agility in leadership & its application in current work scenario across the world.
Ms.Illa Bhan, an ICF certified Executive & Leadership Coach (ACC) and a facilitator points out, the pandemic has forced us to work & collaborate differently. It has also changed customer expectations, in terms of not just safety, but also in what was essential may become an indulgence. So, an organization may have to provide the value of luxury also in an everyday item! To add to that, the issues with manpower availability, and sub-optimal support services. Adding more value, Ms.Sunita Pasumarthy, a renowned Corporate Trainer, Coach, and Speaker appropriately points that After world war II, no other event has given such a blow to the business world as COVID 19 has done now.
All of these, & more require an organization to change their ways of working, innovate & evolve their product/ service delivery, and yet keep their workforce engaged & happy. This has probably caused the biggest jump in the VUCA nature of the business environment.
A change of this dimension would require any organization to think on its feet, relearn & realign its business context, in the right time frame, to stay competitive in the market- which now necessitates being agile.
Ms. Pasumarthy describe Agile leadership as something that emanates from the foundation of continuous change, uncertainty, and incomplete data; something that was common in the software & product industry now has found its place in all the industries. It is more of a mind-set and behaviour than a leadership style.
Ms. Pasumarthy advocates following behavioural intellect to foster agile leadership skills in a virtual work environment.
One of the leaders in my executive coaching had a new team assigned with the new projectthat she had bagged. She felt it was like hitting in the dark; Communication can get muddled if teams never meet face to face. Make time for daily check-ins with the team and don’t just leave them to connect only when needed. This proactive connect will help you remain aware of ‘team pulse’ especially where team members are hesitant to reach out.
Setting boundaries of failures will allow the team to innovate, be creative, and experiment towards achieving organizational goals and client needs. This will also help create a culture of blamelessness where people admit mistakes and learn from them. Not just blindly following the status quo, bringing in constructive change, passion for learning, and developing people are the tenets of agile leadership.
Empowering the team with requisite authority and not just the responsibility will allow them to take ownership of their work and be accountably paving the way for self-managed teams.
The informal communication in the office viz exchanging notes during coffee breaks or check-ins at the water cooler helps a leader build a personal connection with each team member and also facilitates understanding of the individual’s buy-in. Needless to say, these small packets of conversations are more powerful and influential than a scheduled one-on-one meeting, something that also aids team cohesiveness.
The lack of such social opportunities in the virtual medium can lead to feelings of isolation in the team members and difficult for the leader or manager to gauge if they are on-board ordejected.To facilitate a connect and enthuse team cohesiveness build social time into the weekly team calendar.
One of my coachees introduced a virtual team coffee break at least once a week using Zoom meetings. The conversation was full of laughter and energy devoid of any mention of pending tasks and deliverables.
Timely feedback both the ways will enable the team to rethink and re-plan without impeding the productivity time and organization growth and allow you as the leader to re-strategize. Reflecting and taking necessary action on the feedback you receive helps you set the right example for your team.
Emphasizing on the importance of agility in leaders, Ms. Bhanwho has over 22 years of experience in the FMCG industry shines a light on the importance of having a daily schedule, that incorporates time slots for various activities, including -work, introspection, rest & exercise. This helps to keep all important things in perspective. She advises leaders to Stay on top of work, yet don't breathe over people’s necks, virtually!
She advocates for the leaders to hold their teammates accountable through clear directions, spelling out the results & allowing them to experiment & innovate new ways of delivering results.
Ms. Bhan significantly talks about the importance of balancing agility and consistency in business. She describes the relationship between two as Agility signifies quick & swift change, to adapt & in the face of adversity. These are imperative for survival. However, while making necessary changes, the Core business values & philosophy may remain unchanged.
As rightly, explained by Ms. Pasumarthy the above scenario with Kodak, which was a successful company in the 80s; Today it is non-existent. The one thing that worked against Kodak was remaining stuck to its business model when the entire photography industry was evolving and witnessing a shift. Failure to adapting change or the lack of agility results in business failure often.
Customers will expect the key product /service features that kept them connected with the brand in the first place, to be untouched & consistent.
Ms. Bhan & Ms. Pasumarthyunanimously agree that, if the core aspects of the business were not to remain consistent with what the internal & external SH believe, it could lead to confusion, & disillusionment in their minds. As a result, loss of brand perception & alienation, eventually leading to loss of face for the organization, in the marketplace. Too much business agility can blur single-minded focus required for execution and can turn it into a reckless one resulting in more harm and chaos. Needless to say, it creates hyperactivity, instability, and panic.
As a training consulting firm, we observe that the marketplace is changing very rapidly with new risks and opportunities emerging almost every day. For organizations that can move quickly are benefiting, while those that are unable to adapt will be in difficulty. The ability to pivot during crises is what makes a business successful. The work culture won’t be the same in Post COVID world. Our trainers strongly believe that workplace evolution demands new ideas, more open discussions &this is the time to focus on continuous learning more needed than ever.
Leadership agility will be a significant factor in the survival of various businesses and corporations.
"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one more responsive to change."
Article curated by Ms. Iris
Team Epinomi Consulting