Agility isn’t just for gymnasts and cheetahs; while business leaders don’t have to worry about doing handstands on a balance beam or stalking the jungle for prey, they must be agile in their thinking to successfully lead organizations in a new direction—and know when it’s time to walk away.
Agile leaders need both vision and courage. The former is reflected by seeing what’s coming down the pike to make decisions about the future, while the latter manifests itself in being brave enough to disrupt the status quo to implement what’s been decided.
Some leaders are strong visionaries who lack the intestinal fortitude required to affect real change. Others are full of bravado, but have no strong vision for the future. The star performers, as you might surmise, are those with both qualities, so they’re agile and resilient.
Think about the leaders of Kodak, once a photographic superpower, now resigned to being little more than a footnote. Their business model relied on customers buying cameras and film. Even as they saw digital technology encroaching on their territory (and they couldn’t have missed it), they steadfastly stuck to their core products, refusing to change with the times.
The Kodak team lacked agility. Perhaps they allowed their own fears and anxieties to keep them on a course that was headed into an abyss. Or maybe their lack of action suggests they were unwilling to live with unknown consequences—something every agile leader must do—and unable to acknowledge that nothing lasts forever.
Contrast that with a man I recently coached who decided to take himself out of a leadership role at a company he’d run for some time. He is the very definition of an agile leader; looking toward the future, he didn’t see himself as the right person to move the company forward—and he had the courage to walk away. I was frankly awestruck by him. How many times have we seen people hang on to roles when it’s clear their time is done?
No one can become an agile leader overnight, but the process begins when you challenge your current thinking and assess your readiness for change. I ask clients to answer these seven questions:
- What factors affect my industry?
- How do these factors influence my current performance and behavior?
- What behaviors/thoughts have made me successful so far?
- How is my behavior affected by my motivations, values and goals?
- What lessons can I learn from the experiences of other successful people in similar situations?
- What new behaviors or proficiencies might I consider as keys to my future success?
- What specific shifts in thinking and behavioral changes am I willing to make to achieve my future goals?
Once you’re honest with yourself and see what might be holding you back from being an agile leader, you can cartwheel toward success and become the king of your jungle.