BY Modise Makhene 2 MINUTE READ

The commercial environment has changed significantly thanks to technological innovation which is moving at an unprecedented pace and creating a lot of excitement in terms of infinite possibilities in modifying business models, improving efficiency in the way we live and work.  From artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) to machine learning and augmented reality (AR) industries have been disrupted whether it’s in rural healthcare, financial access at the bottom-end or newspapers and tourism.

But one of the areas that the digital age has created a lot of angst, is management. Leaders can no longer lead in the same way for a variety of reasons:

  • The competitive landscape has become fast-paced and cut-throat
  • Due to the ever-evolving, dynamic nature of innovative technology when leaders make decisions, for most part they tend not to have all the known variables to make an informed decision
  • The decision-making process has been hugely affected and therefore must evolve to reflect this market dynamism

Leaders’ thinking has to be more agile and be adaptive. It is important to acknowledge that most leaders got to the top without agile behaviours in the first instance so being open minded to a new leadership style is vital.

Key Components of Agile Leadership

  • Lead with insight – As strategic as leaders may be, they need to tap more into insights. This is about developing the mental acuity to see around the corner. It is connecting seemingly unrelated dots in terms of where new opportunities might come from.
  • Curious mindset – They say curiosity killed the cat, but this is not a rallying cry for an agile leader. They in fact encourage their teams to explore their curiosity to the fullest.
  • Adaptability and flexibility – Agile leaders have to dispense of tried and tested ways of doing things and be willing to try new and untested ways. This means being comfortable with constant change (“Human beings creatures of habit” is a paradigm that agile leaders seek to subvert)
  • Highly collaborative – They understand that the best ideas may come from anywhere, that is both externally and internally. Internally, they encourage cross-functional teams and self-organising teams.
  • Experimental mindset – Agile leaders know that failure is an option in the pursuit of exponential success. Failure for them is not the end result but the beginning of finding solutions.
  • Continuous problem solving is important as there are constant learnings that can be gleaned from failure.
  • Embracing vulnerability – Agile leaders know that they don’t have all the answers. They are mindful of how they extend themselves to their teams. They counsel and more importantly, they seek counsel from those that they lead

There is no doubt that agile-led organisations perform infinitely better than those who have a steady state mindset. The critical success factor is how agile leaders ensure that agile thinking and behaviours are fully embedded in the cultural norm of the organisation. If there is a disconnect between the priorities of the leader and the teams, the cracks will show. Aligning teams and shaping an agile environment is pivotal for success.