Intentional Agile Leadership – The Nucleus of Business Agility

Updated on Feb. 22, 2019

Business agility refers to the distinct capabilities that allow organizations to respond rapidly to changes in the internal and external environments, without losing momentum or vision. Adaptability, flexibility and balance are three of the qualities essential to long-term business agility. We assert that most organizations will need to undergo some kind of transformation in order to develop the capabilities necessary to thrive in this transformed environment. They need to transform because the problem domain has transformed – and will continue to transform.

In the second installment in our Business Agility Webinar Series, we delved specifically into what this means from a leadership perspective. For most organizations, developing the capabilities that comprise business agility will require that their leaders re-shape their understanding of leadership and management, and develop the new skills needed to lead people and manage operations in our radically changing world.

For most organizations, developing the capabilities that comprise business agility will require that their leaders re-shape their understanding of leadership and management, and develop the new skills needed to lead people and manage operations in our radically changing world

It’s natural for us to hear the words learn “new skills” and immediately jump to the logical-mind conclusion that we need to learn more tips and techniques. The new skills that we are talking about here are something else altogether. What we mean by “new skills” is learning how to make different sense of things. Jennifer Garvey-Berger sums this up nicely as learning how to hold multiple perspectives at the same time, adopting a “listening-to-learn” approach, and finding the willingness to engage in “messy” ways. Leading in this complex, ambiguous environment is about creating a safe-to-fail environment, not a fail-safe one.


What is Intentional Agile Leadership?

The key to business success in the 21st century is the ability to effectively respond and adapt to a dynamic and uncertain business environment. For most organizations, developing such business agility capabilities requires a new understanding of leadership and management. Our Intentional Agile Leadership workshop explores the nine domains that transform leadership and unlock competitive advantage. This workshop enables you to begin to develop the skills and mindsets needed to lead your company’s transformation towards greater business agility.

learn more


Paradigm Shift

What we know through decades of research, and through our own hands-on experience, is that this kind of change demands much more than a behavioral adjustment. What is truly required is a paradigm shift in how leaders think about their role and their organizations, and how the two support each other in mutual development. In its most essential form, this is Agile leadership. In order to catalyze the kind of transformational change that our current circumstances demand, a leader must develop not only the organizational capabilities required for business agility but their own agility of mind and agility of action, as well.

So how do we learn to create a safe-to-fail environment, or learn how to hold multiple perspectives? It may be surprising to learn that in a true Agile transformation, our primary focus is not on the practices of Agile. Of course, the practices are certainly part of what we are learning, and possibly even the first step in the journey, but the bigger, more fundamental responsibility is shifting the mindset. This realization, that transformation requires a mindset shift, is what you might call the “secret sauce”. This essential responsibility – living, teaching, and modeling that mindset shift – ultimately lands in the lap of the leader.

There is a surprising amount of science around what shifting mindsets really means and how that comes about in human beings. In the context of an organization, you can think about the culture as being the mindset of the organization; essentially it is the collection of all of the individual mindsets within this construct we call an organization. There is no single greater impact on this organizational mindset than the personal mindset of the leader. Leo Tolstoy famously wrote “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” We believe that this is precisely where Agile leaders need to start in order to effect transformational change in their organization. A transformational challenge demands a transformational response. Mere change is insufficient. Transformation begins here, with ourselves, not out there, with process and tools. Only when we shift the mindset of the leader can we shift the mindset of the culture itself.

Transformational change is a developmental process where the outcome is increased or heightened capabilities. Transformation can occur in a number of different ways. It can be intentional, where a developmental process leads to positive transformation through deliberate transformational growth. However, it can also be forced through catastrophic circumstances, as in the case of a hostile takeover, a hurricane, or a swift market change. In these instances of “forced transformation”, while change will happen, it is usually not developmental.

Being Intentional in Leadership

Check out Newton’s first law of motion and consider the parallel to your leadership stance. It could be stated as “Any object continues in its state of rest or its uniform state of motion, unless compelled to change that state by external forces acted upon it.” What if you didn’t wait until you were “compelled” to change? What if you were intentional about your leadership transformation, such that you were ready for that inevitable occurrence that could lead to forced transformation? What becomes possible when you are able to embody a leadership stance that allows you to respond BEFORE that forced transformation?

Being intentional about your own leadership transformation IS the way to respond to the complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity you are immersed in…

Something we know to be true about the world we live in (we’ve all heard by now that we are living in a VUCA world, right?), is that change is inevitable. Let me put it a different way: you will face disruption – not if, but when. Your ability to respond to that disruption is directly related to your leadership competency. Intentional transformation, requires deliberate leadership. I invite you to consider that being intentional about your own leadership transformation IS the way to respond to the complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity that you are immersed in as you lead your team, your organization, your industry, in the successful navigation of our environment.


Accelerate Your Agile Leadership

Accenture | SolutionsIQ’s Intentional Agile Leadership workshop explores the nine domains that transform leadership and unlock competitive advantage. This workshop enables you to begin to develop the skills and mindsets needed to effectively respond and adapt to a dynamic and uncertain business environment and to lead your company’s transformation towards greater business agility.

learn more