Things do not always go as planned. In leading your organization, you must be flexible and agile if your potential for success is to be realized. This involves adjusting to both internal and external factors as needed, while also ensuring that any changes made are still in line with your overall vision.
While the vision you have initiated will remain constant, it is imperative to monitor the changes of everything else surrounding it. These changes include the internal culture of your company or organization, as well as the external culture your vision is seeking to serve. In order to be successful, you must be able to adjust to these changes while still keeping your eye on the vision—in other words, you must possess agility.
Agility is defined as "the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly; intellectual acuity; the power of moving quickly and easily; nimbleness." In their book Leadership Agility, co-authors Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs similarly describe leadership agility as "the capacity to anticipate emerging trends, engage diverse stakeholders, develop uniquely appropriate strategies, take timely action and learn from experience."
To be agile, you must have an intentional, consistent approach to change. That approach involves several key steps. Without them, change will leave you and your vision behind.
"I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don't think that's quite it; it's more like jazz. There is more improvisation," explains leadership guru Warren Bennis.
Music is written in a very formulaic fashion, with precise notes and chords played by horns, strings and drums in a specific, well-timed manner. Jazz, however, is free-flowing. In a perfect corporate world or consumer market, you could serve the role as conductor, directing exactly how it should go.
But in an ever-evolving, rapidly reacting marketplace served by a transient and diversified work force, it is impossible to be rigid with your direction. You must improvise; a more open-minded approach will make flexing to the changes in these arenas, and thereby achieving your vision, easier.
16th century English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon is credited with coining the phrase, "Knowledge is power." His words still echo loudly in the marketplace today. Being fully informed of your available resources and aware of the marketplace will allow you to react ahead of others.
Internal surveys of employees, whether for the primary purpose of job reviews or gaining perceptions of management and their decisions, will also give you insight to head off potential personnel problems and adjust accordingly. And knowing what your target market thinks in regard to your industry, product or service will give you the ability to recognize new trends and change your course as needed.
You may have started with a very basic, paint-by-numbers canvas for realizing your vision. But to be a strong and successful leader, you must realize that those you are leading each have different shades and tones in personality and abilities. Helping an individual grow to their full potential requires that you recognize and nurture their particular talents.
Ignoring these talents can result in a duller version of your vision, but fully utilizing them will allow you to create a collaborative effort encompassing a myriad of vibrant colors. Take the time to discover what you fully have at your disposal in painting your vision.
Based on your research, find the issues and trends that will have an immediate impact on your organization and connect them to your long-range planning. "[Agile leaders] anticipate emerging threats and opportunities by continually scanning their organization's environments for new developments," write Joiner and Josephs. "They give appropriately balanced attention to short-term and long-term priorities, to top-down direction setting and meaningful participation, and to fostering individual initiative and strong teamwork." In other words, connect all the dots you uncover, and point them toward the big picture of your overall vision.
Nothing lasts forever, and you should not assume that the potential for your leadership role and your vision will, either. Be constantly aware of your window of opportunity, and when it is open, do everything you can to be as effective as possible.
When that window starts to close, do not try to keep it pried open with all of your resources. Instead, display your agility by letting it gently shut while putting your energies toward finding the next opportunity in which your vision can be achieved.
Meetings are rarely looked upon favorably by employees and managers alike, as most consider them to be an unproductive and useless part of their week. But when managed well, a meeting can become one of the most reliable and efficient tools you have to lead your team to achieve its goals.
A good leader concentrates on individual strengths and utilizing them to the fullest extent possible. But great leaders also focus on the weaknesses and find ways to support those shortcomings toward even more success.
Some leaders within your organization will have great pattern recognition, wisdom, trend anticipation, personnel insight and confidence, while others do not. Those who display these attributes will have the kind of intuition on which you should rely.