Amity Institute Of Training & Development

What it takes to lead with agility Read Time: 6 mins

Leading in 2021 means carving a new path through an epic commotion triggered by the pandemic which has become a global shared adversity. This unprecedent times has spawned health, economic, and social crises that have rendered the best-laid plans useless. With no road map for the appearing long haul ahead, navigating through these times is a test of agility. Together, the organization will have to experiment, execute, and learn from successes and failures to invent its future.

While specific future developments are increasingly difficult to foresee with certainty, we can be sure about two deep trends: The pace of change will continue to increase, and the level of complexity and interdependence will continue to grow. Leadership matters now more than ever - it is about leveraging, not reacting to, the turbulence around. How can you as a leader empower your team to solve problems deftly and resourcefully when circumstances are in a constant flux? How can you create the conditions for your organization to work effectively and steer well out of this world over chaos? How do you create new ways of engaging with team members when they are all under pressure and resources are scarce? And how do you cultivate your capacity to cope with the imponderables that lie ahead?

To develop teams and organizations with the level of agility demanded by today’s turbulent business environment, companies need leaders who embody a corresponding level of agility. It is no wonder, then, that senior executives say that agility is one of the most critical leadership capacities needed in their companies today.

What is leading with agility? In essence, it is the ability to lead effectively under conditions of rapid change and high complexity. Because change and complexity now affect managers at all organizational levels, this is a competency that is increasingly needed not just in the executive suite but throughout the company. Let us together explore what it takes to develop this agility to lead through the constant flux.

# 1: Self Leadership - mastering oneself:

"Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power." - Lao Tzu. All human beings are self-leaders; however, not all self-leaders are effective at self-leading (Manz, 1983). That is the bad news. The good news is that self-leaders can become better at leading themselves. Self-leadership is about constantly developing the 'inner game' of intention, self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-efficacy to achieve personal mastery. When our inner game is good, our game becomes more efficient and effective through influence and impact.

The most important skill for developing self-leadership is a strong sense of self. This self-awareness refers to understanding who you are, what your goals are, what your strengths are and areas where you can improve. elf-awareness also includes emotional self-awareness, which is the ability to understand your personal moods, emotions, and motivations and how they impact you. Individuals who are self-aware can also complete an accurate and objective self-assessment, which leads to self-confidence and development. Having empathy requires you to have a deep understanding of your own emotions and feelings, which allows you to make a close connection to the feelings of others and respond appropriately. Empathy is often a skill that leaders need because it allows them to make genuine connections with the people they are leading.

Self-regulation is the ability to regulate your own emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, without external interference, in a way that is socially acceptable. Self-regulation skills help you respond to challenges rather than reacting to them. A response is the deliberate, carefully thought-out way in which you choose to address a challenge or an unforeseen circumstance, whereas a reaction is a spontaneous outburst. A reaction is typically driven by emotion and a response is driven by logic or reasoning. In my mind to have mastery on oneself, one needs to develop a serene mind which is unclouded or unruffled in all situations, especially in troubled times.

# 2. Developing reflective action:

In leading with agility, one needs to step back from your current focus in a way that allows you to make wiser decisions and then fully engage in what needs to be done next. Reflective action is both the essence of leading with agility and the best way to develop it. The easy way to develop reflective action is to scan your environment and determine what issues (problems or opportunities) need your attention. When you identify an issue that needs attention, before you act, try to understand what is causing the problem or preventing the opportunity from being realized. Post identifying and solving what is stopping, you need clarify the results you want to achieve and determine how you can achieve them. Once you have determined the how of achieving what you want to, go ahead, and carry out those steps you have decided to take. Post completion of the steps assess the results of your actions and take the feedback and repeat the cycle till all that is determined is achieved.

Reflective action involves a willingness to experiment with new behaviours and look honestly at yourself, so it takes a certain degree of curiosity, courage, and self-confidence. It also requires a conviction that you are ultimately responsible not only for your own development but also for your response to whatever life brings your way – It is what is called resilience. Its motivating force is what gives reflective action its juice.

# 3: Cultivating single-pointed attention:

Reflection is a mental process that allows you to recall and think about previous thoughts, feelings, and behaviours after they have occurred. At any level of leadership development, reflection can be a powerful ally. Its key limitation is that it always takes place after the fact. As a leader, you can act or you can reflect, but you cannot do both at the same time. The drawback of reflection can be mitigated by cultivating single- pointed attention.

Attention, as we define it, is the direct, nonconceptual awareness of physical, mental, and emotional experience in the present moment. For most people, reflection is much more familiar than attention. Everyone has some degree of free attention. But our attention is usually so absorbed in our experiences and reflections that we are not cognizant of it as a distinct mode of awareness. It is by developing this capacity to live “in attention” that you can move into and through the higher and better levels of leading through agility.

The psychological and health benefits of meditation have been well documented. Sitting meditation can become a true oasis from the stresses of everyday life, a way to access the wellspring of peace and joy that we all have at the core of our being. Further, if you practice regularly, the states of mind you experience in meditation will spill over into your everyday life, at least to some extent. Developing a regular daily regime of mediating helps to build on your single- pointed awareness and the same can be experienced by you in midst of chaos. However, if you come back to this awareness many times each day, your attention will grow and become stronger. It will gradually extend itself over longer periods of time, and it will become more spacious and panoramic. If you stay with this practice, you will eventually learn how to be present amid more complex circumstances. When you repeatedly cultivate a new level of awareness during action, your mental and emotional capacities develop accordingly. These capacities, in turn, support more leading with agility behaviour.

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By: Vaani Gandha

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