Leadership Agility

Here is a link to the PDF version with the formatting intact –> Leadership Agility

Leadership Agility

Bill Joiner

Why do we need Agile Leaders?

  • Implement Agile adoptions and sustain it
  • Develop organizational agility

Agile leaders currently conceived as

  • Upholding Agile principles and values
  • Using and supporting Agile practices
  • Not being traditional manager

Agility is the ability to achieve sustained success in an environment or accelerating change and increasing interdependencies [due to global economy, new technologies etc] According to a survey by the Economist, 90% of the executives believe that agility is essential for business success and growth and the primary obstacle is organizational culture What is Leadership Agility? Agility comes from the world of sports and it includes being

  • Receptive to change
  • Adapting to changing environment
  • Faster capability in people
  • Faster feedback loops
  • Being responsive rather than being reactive
  • Self organized teams – delegation
  • Embrace change

The essence of Leadership Agility is

  • Focus
  • Step back
  • Gain a broader deeper vision
  • Re-engage and take action

The levels of Leadership Agility correlate with established stages of personal development. Synergist Co Creator                                                                                                                                                              Catalyst Achiever Expert Conformer Operator Enthusiast Explorer The first four stages(Explorer, Enthusiast, Operator, Conformer) correspond to the Childhood stages and the others to the Adult stages of development Expert

  • Holds expertise
  • Acts in a tactical manner
  • Address people as they come up


  • Have a strategy
  • Adapt to change
  • What can I do to make that change
  • How can I make my team more motivated


  • Do everything done at previous levels
  • Vision – not just to reach the top
  • Have everyone on the team super engaged
  • Have every one become leaders in their own right

  Expert level leadership

Key assumptions Leaders are respected and followed because of authority and expertise  
Leadership style Tactical, problem solving orientation. Leader’s power depends on expertise and positional authority
Organizational change  Focus on incremental improvements within one’s unit with minimal stakeholder engagement
Team Leadership More a supervisor than a manager Focus on one to one Supervision vs management/leadership of direct reports as a person
Pivotal conversations low tolerance for conflict –  either strongly assert opinions or hold back to accommodate others.  May swing from one style to the other.

   Achiever level leadership

Key assumptions  Motivate others by making it challenging and satisfying to contribute to larger objectives
Leadership style Strategic outcome orientation, believes power comes not only from power and authority but also by motivating others
Organizational change Initiatives include analysis of industry environment strategies to gain stakeholder buy in – ranges from one way communication to soliciting input
Team Leadership Treats direct reports as a system to be orchestrated as a team
Pivotal conversations Moderate tolerance for conflict Primarily assertive / accommodative with some ability to compensate using other systems Will often accept feedback if helpful in achieving desired outcome

Catalyst level leadership

Key assumptions  Articulate an inspiring vision and empower and develop others to make it a reality
Leadership style Visionary, facilitative orientation
Organizational change Organizational initiatives often include development of a culture that promotes team work, participation and empowerment, proactive engagement with diverse stakeholders – reflects belief that their input increases the quality of decisions
Team Leadership Create a highly participate empowered team that leads change together Welcome exchange of views on difficult issues
Pivotal conversations Greater tolerance to conflict Adept at balancing assertive and accommodative tendencies as needed Proactive in seeking feedback – genuinely interested in learning from diverse new points

  The Co-creator level leadership

Key assumptions Oriented towards shared purpose and collaboration
Leadership style Believes leadership is ultimately a service to others
Organizational change Develops key stakeholder relationships characterized by deep levels of mutual influence and genuine dedication to the common good. May create companies or units where corporate responsibility is an integral practice
Team Leadership Develops collaborative leadership styles where members feel fully responsible not only to their own areas but also to the organization they collectively manage
Pivotal conversations Style reflects an integration of assertive and accommodative tendencies Able to process and seriously consider negative feedback even when highly charged emotionally

The Synergist level of leadership

Key assumptions Wholistic orientation
Leadership style Experiences leadership as a participation in a palpable sense of purpose that benefits others while serving as a vehicle for personal transformation
Organizational change Maintains a deep empathetic awareness of conflicting stakeholder interests including their own. Able to access synergistic intuitions that transforms seemingly intractable conflicts into solutions beneficial for all
Team Leadership Capable of moving fluidly between various team leadership styles Can amplify or shape group energy dynamics to bring about mutually beneficial results
Pivotal conversations Creating a present centered awareness that augments external feedback and supports strong style connection with others even during challenging conversations

    Heroic and Post Heroic Leadership Heroic Leadership

  • Heroic leaders can be highly effective in certain situations.
  • However in complex rapidly changing organization environments heroic leadership over controls and under utilizes subordinates.
  • It discourages people for feeling responsible for anything beyond their assigned area
  • Inhibits team work and implicitly encourages subordinates to use their heroic approach with their own units

Post Heroic Leadership Post Heroic leaders retain ultimate accountability and authority that comes with their role yet they create work environments characterized by high involvement and shared responsibility. 4 types of Leadership Agility   Context Setting Agility

  • Scoping initiatives / Self Direction
  • Leaders use Context Setting Agility to
    • scan their environment
    • anticipate change
    • decide what initiatives they need to take
  • It also includes the ability to determine the optimal scope of an initiative and the outcomes it needs to achieve
  • They have the ability to undertake visionary initiatives that are personally meaningful and beneficial for the organization and its key stakeholders

Stakeholder Agility

  • Understanding stakeholders / resolving differences
  • Leaders use Stakeholder Agility to
    • Identify the key stakeholders of an initiative
    • Understand what they have stake
    • Asses the extent to which their views and objectives are aligned with their own
  • Includes the ability to engage with stakeholders in ways that lead to more optimal alignment
  • They seek input from key stakeholders not simply to gain buy in, but because they feel that genuine dialogue will improve the quality and effectiveness of their initiatives

Creative Agility

  • Creating solutions / analyzing problems
  • Leaders use Creative Agility to transform complex novel issues to deliver results
  • Catalyst leaders begin their initiatives with a keen appreciation of the novelty inherent in the situation they are addressing
  • They conduct their initiatives in a manner that encourages the expression of multiple views and the questioning of underlying assumptions
  • Where they encounter apparent opposites, their willingness to experience the tension between them increases their ability to discover creative solutions

Self Learning Agility

  • Developing new skills / seeking feedback
  • They develop a strong interest in becoming aware of behaviours, feelings and assumptions that would normally escape their conscious attention
  • They are motivated to increase their self awareness and more fully align their behaviour with their values and aspirations
  • For them personal growth fuels professional development

Repeatedly engaging in these competencies allows one to use leadership initiatives to develop all four leadership agility competencies.  Each of these competencies involves stepping back from yoru current focus in a way that generates new insights and helps you make better decisions that reengaging in what needs to be done next.

  • Context Setting Agility – re-examine current priorities in the light of changes taking place in your large environment
  • Stakeholder Agility – consider the needs and perspectives of those who are influenced by your initiatives
  • Creative Agility – develop optimal solutions to the often novel and complex issues you face
  • Self learning Agility – reflecting you yourself and experimenting with new and more effective behaviours

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