What The World Needs Now is Agile Leaders

agile leadership

Times of Uncertainty Demand It

Regardless of the amount of change and uncertainty we’ve been though, there are always some consistencies. And in terms of an organization, those consistencies rest with the attributes and behaviors of leadership. At their foundation, they are about the resilience, persistence, and ability to be agile. Only in these ways will we be able to make the organizational transformations needed for success.
The pandemic and its lingering aftershocks have transformed the workplace in countless ways. We are still experiencing high rates of absenteeism, adjustments to remote and hybrid workforces, massive supply chain issues from manufacturing to transportation to warehousing, historic inflation, and dangerously increasing instances of employee burnout and mental exhaustion. Many of us are getting through these challenging times, but others are not. So, exactly what separates them? Often, the distinguishing factor is the ability to be agile – and, as always, it starts with leadership.


What Defines an Agile Leader?

An agile leader is one who is continuously looking for new, creative, innovative solutions. One who finds ways to be more efficient by using experiments, feedback, and collaboration. Simply, an agile leader is empowered enough to empower the team, and by extension, the organization.

Agility in Problem Solving

While there is no doubt that the ability to problem solve is a key attribute for any leader, agile leaders take a different approach to their problem solving. Specifically, they rarely solve a problem behind closed doors, as many other leaders choose to do. Rather, they involve the team in seeking out feedback and collaborating with all involved.

Agile leaders are also more analytical in their problem solving. They focus on facts and metrics in collecting quantitative data to make data-driven decisions, while optimizing processes to increase efficiency. They also are not scared to try new things. In fact, they thrive on it. They use experimentation and encourage their teams to learn from mistakes when those experiments do not go as planned.

When an agile leader solves a problem, they are curious about its roots and ask more questions. When it’s time to make a change, they are capable of adapting quickly and innovating to find a new solution. They never accept the status quo or say, “This is how we’ve always done it.”

Agility in Culture

Agile leaders understand that a strong culture is the key to communication and collaboration. As such, they strive to create the most inspiring, adaptive, and open environments. They encourage employees to share ideas and feedback with the understanding that only in this way can they truly innovate as a team.

Agile leaders begin by changing their own behaviors so that they can lead by example. They neither put themselves above the team nor micromanage. Rather, they tend to work in the background and trust that they’ve put the right team in place to make the best decisions.

They are always listening and observing both internally and externally. They know what is going on with their employees, as much as what is going on with trends in the industry. In this way, they place value upon, and prioritize, the employee experience – a crucial factor in retention today.


Agility in Power Shifting

We’ve all been a part of more traditional operational systems and teams – ones where there are endless layers to reach those who hold the power, along with all the bureaucracy and red tape that goes with them. This type of system not only holds up decisions, but doesn’t allow for teams to evolve.

An agile leader will decentralize power so that it is spread more equitably throughout the team. This system creates empowered employees who are more apt to be accountable for their actions – both positive and negative. The strength of the team is prioritized over the strength and accolades of any one team member. It also helps remove the typical roadblocks to success by increasing efficiency and productivity.

Having an agile team that is resilient and ready to adapt has never been more important. But without an agile leader modeling this behavior and attitude, the team will not have the resources or tools it needs to succeed. Simply, it’s what the world needs now.

Remember, don’t do what you’ve always done because you’ll always get what you got. Let’s go get it. Let’s go win.


To hear more about this topic and others from Crystal Davis, go to https://pod.co/lead-lean


Clarity is the Antidote to Taking Action

We’ve been talking a lot about playing offense lately. It’s no secret it’s time to free ourselves from the defensive mode we’ve all been in for far too long. We’ve talked about transformation, resilience, and adaptability, as we shift our mindsets from a reactionary standpoint to an anticipatory one. But let’s be very clear – we cannot do any of it without clarity.

With the constant volatility and change surrounding us for over two years, it’s no wonder we’re all a bit confused … to say the least. We feel stuck, unsure of which direction to turn, uncertain about what comes next. So, we stay stagnant. There’s a saying that confused minds take no action. But isn’t action exactly what we all need right now?

It’s time to commit to our playbooks, which capture our offensive plans. It clearly shows what actions need to occur when we start playing offense in our business. But clarity is about more than our playbook. It’s even about more than these actions. It’s about focusing on our own motivations and behaviors, as well as those of our team’s. It’s about learning how to revive our teams by pulling them out of these high stress, high anxiety environments, so they begin to feel like they have a chance to win again.

A State of Ambiguity

Staying in defensive mode (the default of experiencing prolonged crisis)leads to confusion and ambiguity. Organizations want specificity, they try for specificity, but they are ambiguous about direction. Eventually, it reaches a point where the organization is stifled. It’s just spinning its wheels – just like its team is.

People are extremely stressed now. Smart, well-intentioned people are burning out, in large part, because of this ambiguity. They come into work already exhausted with issues they’ve experienced in their personal lives and then have to prepare themselves for whatever comes their way at work. This heightened level of unpredictability is causing extreme levels of burnout.

By definition, burnout is physical or emotional exhaustion as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. And as always, with increased stress comes poorer nutrition, less sleep, and decreased focus. We simply cannot have clarity and be burnt out at the same time.

This ambiguity and burnout also lead to substandard performances. Without clarity, there is no organizational roadmap, and with no real direction, there is a dilution of priorities, inaccurate conclusions, and faulty assumptions. It also creates opportunities for biases, as unclear messaging is open to interpretation.

What revelations have you had during this time about your leadership style, organization, team, behaviors, and culture?

When you take a step back and look at how you, your team, and the organization overall have been responding to various external (and sometimes internal) stimuli, do you see focus and clarity? Or do you see ambiguity and burnout? What cycles have you fallen into?

This discovery could lead to various opportunities to get clear. Maybe there are new training needs for your team to explore. What about taking some time to adjust your relationships? Is it possible to treat your customers as partners and have honest conversations with them regarding shifting expectations?

Taking this time can help you, and those you lead, gain some clarity, improving your team’s ability to execute confidently and change directions, when needed. With clarity, the team has more confidence that they are doing work that actually needs to get done to make forward progress toward the organization’s vision. Teams are more engaged and satisfied – crucial components of current workforce trends.

Tips to Get Clear

I hope it’s getting clearer – clarity is required in the strategic ability of leaders and their teams. It’s required for the very longevity of the organization itself. But clarity requires focus, discipline, and engagement. So, how do we get clear?

Here are a few tips:

  • Understand where your organization is going.
  • Assess it and commit to it, so your team can too.
  • Ensure transparency with the team and any communication regarding vision and action steps.
  • Use a focused foresight strategy to help put your path in perspective. Allow for flexibility to change course, as needed, but have a clear direction first.
  • Be ready for any battle that comes your way, but first have a game plan to be strategic about the steps needed.
  • Clearly define the objectives, rules of engagement, and how to resolve conflicts.
  • Be decisive – for yourself and your team.
  • Give yourself a break. Do not put increasing pressure on yourself that you need to have all the answers right now. You don’t. But you do need to have a clear vision.

What’s possible in your organization when you have clarity?

Clarity starts with a reflection of the values and principles that drive you, your team, and your organization. But at any level, it’s about purpose. Understanding what values are most important – not just on paper, but in action throughout the organization – is key. And it starts with you.

Leadership is personal. Your intentions must be aligned with your actions personally and professionally. Ask yourself how well your life values and goals align with your organization’s? How well do they align with the playbook? How well do they align with your team?

After you find alignment, remember that kindness is free. It doesn’t cost us anything to be kind to others. People have reached their limits. It’s why we’ve experienced the Great Resignation. And those who stayed often have only been met with more work, rather than appreciation or kindness. The time for robotic responses as defense mechanisms to maintain sanity is over. With clarity, you can get back to values-based leadership and purpose-driven actions.

Your team needs a clear understanding of what the goals are, what steps are needed to reach those goals, and what obstacles are present. This clarity of vision fuels passion and excitement, driving all stakeholders to success.

Remember, don’t do what you’ve always done because you’ll always get what you got. Let’s go get it. Let’s go win.

To hear more about this topic and others from Crystal Davis, go to https://pod.co/lead-lean