Agility is an important characteristic for businesses —and leaders too. But what makes a leader 'agile'?

Almost every successful business in the world has one characteristic in common: agility.
Adapting quickly to changes, rapidly  meeting customer demands and continuously having a competitive advantage over competitors is what separates the 'great' businesses from the rest.

To shape an agile business, you need an agile leader, but what does that entail?

What is an agile leader?

Traditional leadership practices simply don't cut it anymore. As the world changes, businesses (and their leaders) need to change too.

An agile leader is able to activate behavior change that contributes to building an agile organization. They have the ability to inspire and influence people, driving them to action, which results in tasks being completed and goals being achieved.

Once an action has taken place, agile leaders take the time to reflect on the process and the results with the team. This involves understanding:

  • what processes were followed to complete the task
  • why those processes were chosen, and 
  • how future tasks could be tackled to achieve better results.

Importantly, leaders that are agile are open to change and embrace opportunities to do things in new and more efficient ways.

What characteristics do agile leaders have?

Agile leaders are able to embrace every aspect of agility, and can build a culture of self-organizing and self-managing teams. They focus on delivering value, and help their team members take care of the customers. 

But how do they do that?

1. Agile leaders set direction and communicate it with others

The best leaders have a good sense of where the business is going, and they are able to clearly communicate that with their teams. They understand how their industry is changing, and are able to navigate through the change by seeing 'the big picture', as well as the path to getting there. 

Communicating the direction to others is a key element of agile leadership — everyone needs to know where the business is headed to effectively achieve the organization's vision.

2. Agile leaders can balance speed with planning

When deadlines are looming, agile leaders are able to balance quick thinking and decision making with careful planning and organization. They know how to effectively communicate with stakeholders to get people involved and to drive accountability among team members.

Team members who work with agile leaders clearly understand their roles and what they are accountable for, which is critical when it comes to delivering results at speed.

3.  Agile leaders inspire others to achieve the 'impossible'

While any good leader should be focused on how to get the most out of the people they work with, agile leaders take this a step further, focusing heavily on the needs of others. Through consideration of team members' perspectives, acknowledging their input and involving them in the decision-making process, agile leaders are able to build a sense of community within their teams. 

Agile leaders can bring teams together and empower them to work towards a common goal. When team members are inspired and feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves, they can achieve great things.