By Jeannette Terry

In a business environment where an organization must respond rapidly to change to survive, becoming an agile leader has never been more important.

In fact, Korn Ferry found that companies with high numbers learning agile executives produced 24% higher profit margins than peer companies.

Agile organizations are more capable of quickly adapting to new technologies, sudden shifts in market conditions and responding to threats from competitors than companies operating from the traditional, top-down hierarchic model.  Agile organizations improve both responsiveness and productivity by:

  • Creating leaner, flatter structures
  • Re-defining organizational roles and accountabilities
  • Empowering teams to make decisions and solve problems
  • Rewarding the behaviors that support an agile and resilient work culture.

But what does this mean for leaders?

The Five Core Practices of Agile Leaders

There are five things that all agile leaders do.

1. They communicate with transparency and authenticity.

No hidden agendas – they say what’s on their mind and freely provide background information when it will help others better understand the issues.

2. They encourage collaboration and reward joint problem-solving.

These leaders assume that employees want to contribute to decisions and are motivated by getting involved in solving complex problems.

3. They embrace change and encourage innovative thinking.

Creative problem-solving and continuous learning are routine. Changing course when the situation calls for it is expected.

4. They share power.

Agile leaders don’t expect to have all the answers and respect the fact that a variety of perspectives can enrich the quality of decisions, especially when there’s not one “right” answer.

5. They create an environment that motivates people to do their best work and take accountability for their results.

Agile leaders understand the importance of aligning organizational goals with individual needs for self-expression and self-development.

Consistency or Agility: Which Makes for Better Leadership?

Since Frederick Taylor developed the theory of Scientific Management in the late 1800’s, consistency has been a highly-valued trait in leaders. Leaders who strive for consistency invest considerable time in detailed planning and analysis, are intent on delivering exactly what is promised, and have a preference for “following the rules”.

However, research tells us that leaders who operate predominantly from a consistency framework can be vulnerable to rigid thinking, are often seen to be change-resistant, and may overlook opportunities to apply innovative ways to improve business performance.

In contrast, leaders who have embraced an agile approach are likely to be intellectually curious, have the ability to learn from their experience and the flexibility to behave differently, depending on the needs of a given situation. This style resonates with the new workforce that consists of a high proportion of Millennials.

One downside of agility is too much change too fast. Another is insufficient attention to detail and data analysis that could lead to problems in executing the work.

Why Agile Leadership Is a Smart Tactic for 2018

Promotions, fancy titles and competitive salaries are no longer enough to motivate the workforce and retain the best talent.

Current workforce trends indicate that leaders need to connect personally with employees and be skilled at giving them frequent, informal performance feedback and encouragement. Taking a flexible approach to how the work gets done and championing team collaboration, which has been found to significantly improve productivity, will be important.  McKinsey estimates that collaboration in the work environment can increase productivity by 20 to 25%.

Introducing Agile leadership practices produces benefits beyond just improving productivity.

Interested in becoming a more agile leader or promoting more agile leadership in your company? TerconPartners offers coaching and training programs on agile leadership as well as the Talent X Seven Assessment of Leader Agility. Learn more about Talent X Seven Assessment >

About the author

Jeannette Terry

Under Terry’s leadership, TerconPartners has grown from a regionally focused firm in America to an international human capital consultancy. Terry has extensive experience supporting major capital projects, where she has collaborated with project executives and teams to achieve performance breakthroughs and to dramatically improve organizational capability. She has coached leaders and developed multi-cultural and multi-discipline teams on five continents and in several off-shore facilities.

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