Developing Leadership Agility


Developing Leadership Agility

Different challenges, different approaches

Everyone involved in transformations knows that each initiative is essentially unique. The mix of different people, different objectives, different agendas, different circumstances and different unfolding events lead to a different dynamic that we, consultants and managers, ignore at our peril. One trick ponies never do well – only the agile flourish.

Are you flexible and adaptive?

To be successful, we need to be flexible, that is, we need to have a broad repertoire of potential behaviors and problem-solving approaches that we can tap into. But preferably we should also be adaptive, in other words, have the ability to learn new behaviors and problem-solving approaches if the current set is not sufficient. At the same time, this flexibility and adaptability should be coupled with responsiveness to the situational demands, meaning that we should quickly and accurately sense what the circumstances require and adjust our behavior accordingly. Only where ‘transformers’ master flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness will we be truly agile and ready to deal with the unpredictable nature of our work.

Transformers in an unpredictable workforce

Transformers, in other words, have to be leaders who are capable of dealing with increasingly diverse people in increasingly complex situations. Not only does the workforce come from a wider variety of cultural backgrounds, but there is also a richer mix of genders, affiliations, lifestyles and career paths, each requiring leaders to adjust their behavior to be able to strike the right cord and win hearts and minds in the most effective way. With so many different situations and different people, all demanding a different approach, to be successful leaders must exhibit leadership agility – have the capacity to flexibly switch between leadership styles, and adaptively master new ones, in rapid response to the specific needs of the people and situation they want to influence.

Twenty essential leadership styles

Yet, the fundamental question is which leadership styles exist that leaders could potentially make use of, what the advantages and disadvantages are of each and under which conditions one would be preferable over the other. As this is a huge question, this article will limit itself to mapping twenty important leadership styles, grouped into ten pairs of opposite styles.

For the reader the question is whether you master all twenty and can easily switch between them depending on the needs of the circumstances. That would make you highly agile. The more likely reality is that you will be better at some than at others, leading to the question whether there are some leadership styles that you need to improve to become more agile. Generally, people tend to exhibit a preference for one side of a pair (we call this their ‘default style’), making the other side of the pair the style requiring further development.

Interpersonal leadership and organizational leadership

These ten dimensions are not the only ways in which leadership styles can differ, but they do represent the most important balancing acts faced by leaders in their drive to effectively influence people around them. The ten can be divided into five clusters, depending on the leadership domain involved. The first two dimensions fall into the domain of interpersonal leadership, which deals with how leaders interact with other individuals to achieve certain results.

The second pair is concerned with organizational leadership, focusing on the ways in which leaders can get individuals to work together as a strong team. The third set of dimensions is concerned with strategic leadership, dealing with the question of which role a leader plays in the formulation and implementation of strategy. The fourth pair falls into the category of leadership & mission, which deals with the type of purpose that leaders emphasize to mobilize people to follow. And finally the fifth pair of dimensions revolves around the way in which a person deals with being a leader and behaves towards leadership challenges - leadership and self.

Leadership Agility – by Ronald Meijers and Ron Meyer

Would you like to learn more about Leadership Agility and about how to develop your repertoire of leadership styles? Ron Meyer and Ronald Meijers’ new book Leadership Agility (Routledge, September 2017) discusses how business leaders and HR professionals can develop more agile leadership in their organizations. Leadership Agility allows readers to map their preferred leadership styles along ten dimensions, gaining insight into their current leadership strengths and likely pitfalls.

The book is also supported by online content and an app to help readers to develop a leadership development plan. Find out more on the dedicated Leadership Agility website, or read the book review by MD Magazine (Dutch).

More information on Leadership Agility?

Do you want to know more on Leadership Agility? Please contact Ronald Meijers at +31 6 51 21 43 71.

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