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In agile organisations, members are equipped to handle the rapid changes, unpredictability, and dynamic forces of an ever-evolving business landscape.

Fostering such adaptability starts from the top, and research shows that one’s leadership style can make or break the agility of a business. To keep up with modern trends and consumer demands, managers must thus adopt these new behaviours – and build them into their workplace culture.

Below, we discuss the key characteristics of an agile leader, and how such traits benefit company results.

Ability to move quickly

Agile leaders have the skills and speed to respond to new market changes and consumer demands.

Businesses are increasingly adopting new, digital models across both local and global landscapes. Statistics reveal that eight out of ten Australians now perform their shopping online (80.8%); with every one out of ten items soon to be purchased off e-commerce stores come 2020.

With the continuous technological disruption, it’s vital to act fast. Agile leaders are able to execute decisions quickly, while simultaneously maintaining careful strategy and planning.

They’re also calculated risk takers with a positive outlook on experimentation and innovation. Such leaders understand the necessity of new ideas to remain competitive, and are thus comfortable with the occasional lack of certainty. While failure is a prospect, their agile character welcomes the habit of “failing fast” – allowing mishaps to happen earlier and more often.

These pitfalls aren’t seen as roadblocks, however, but rather valuable experiences to help their business grow and learn at a faster rate.

Having a growth mindset

According to Carol Dweck (author the self-development book, Mindset), our mentality shapes our potential, success, and management of our day-to-day challenges.

A “growth mindset” refers to the habitual focus on continual learning and development, while those with a “fixed mindset” believe their skillsets to be innate talents or gifts. A cultivated “growth mindset” is thus dominant among agile leaders, as they’re always seeking room for improvement and willing to break new ground.

As mentioned, agile leaders also welcome frequent failures and mistakes, treating them as precious lessons, rather than dead-ends. Such incidents are believed to help them further evolve and improve on their current systems – benefiting their business in the long run.

A “growth” mindset thus enhances creativity and innovation, enabling the agile leader to overcome obstacles on their business journey.

They build resilience and a healthy drive for success; while fostering a strong understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses – and the steps required for self-improvement.

Good with people

The customer is at the heart of every business. According to the 2019 National Business Insights Report by Commonwealth Bank, “customer factors” topped the list for “high impact opportunities and threats driving change” among Australian companies.

In agile organisations, leaders have a skilled grasp on how to adapt their people and processes to suit the evolving expectations and demands of customers. They understand their consumers’ needs, concerns, and the value they bring to their business; and work towards a continuous enhancement of customer experience. This, in turn, rewards them with higher profits.

Their people skills don’t stop at customer service, however. In everyday workplace situations, agile leaders know how to read a room and respond to its people accordingly. They encourage open communication among workers, asking clear, “defining” questions and listening actively in turn. Motivation plays a key role in their management style as they consistently foster positive workplace energy; helping members perform at their best, even in the face of change and uncertainty.

Of course, their knowledge isn’t the be-all, end-all of their business. Agile leaders display humility when necessary, consuming feedback and criticism in a graceful, strategic manner. Such assessments are used as fuel to improve upon their leadership and business practices; and aren’t always directly gained, with some acquired through silent observation.

Flexible, strategic decision-making

On top of their constant, adaptable nature, agile leaders are skilled in making critical, well-planned, and flexible decisions.

As such, they’re able to optimise their available resources, despite time, supply, or financial restraints. Rather than letting these hinder operations, they instead leverage their company’s talents accordingly; bringing everyone together in adopting new, strategic methods. They additionally don’t shy away from tough questions – the more transparent their operations, the easier it’ll be to find cracks in the system.

As forward-thinkers, agile leaders are also able to spot new challenges or opportunities on the horizon. This allows them plan their next moves in advance, keeping their business market-relevant and competitive. While acting on intuition and gut instinct plays a vital part in their leadership, they also know when to sit back and examine the data presented, before making a final decision.

Their business plans are also typically comprised of smaller key objectives, granting their team the greater ease of applying any necessary, minor adjustments during the process.

This flexibility results in greater productivity, allowing members to respond efficiently to unpredictable market changes.

However, they ultimately don’t lose sight of the bigger picture; performing changes while keeping their long-term goals in mind, and acknowledge how operational tweaks affect other aspects of their business, or the organisation as a whole.

Creativity and inspiration

Finally, an agile leader constantly inspires new ideas and innovation among their employees. Fostering this creative culture drives their business forward, as they find explore inventive methods of beating the competition, tackling stakeholder needs and improving business efficiency.

They are masters of motivation, enabling workers to charter new territories. Such leaders hold their creative talents in high regard, ensuring all members are included in the progress towards company goals. Each person’s input is not only acknowledged, but empowered, by an agile leader; creating confident, fearless teams dedicated to constant learning and optimum results.

Such management style implements a “design thinking” approach, in which a business places great focus on understanding and empathising with their target user’s requirements. This spurs innovative solutions that improve on the customer journey, resulting in greater profits.

“Tried and tested” methods are thus avoided by agile leaders, as they find ways to build on or enhance the status quo.  As mentioned, agile leaders also have the foresight to anticipate potential pitfalls; with the ability to view new concepts from different angles, effectively gauging their feasibility.

Foster an agile business culture

Staying firm in your traditions can make a leader appear confident, strong, and sure in their decisions; but in our fast-paced, tumultuous environment, adapting is inevitable. Learning to adopt agile strategies will not only keep your business afloat – it can also enhance the productivity, drive, and talents of all those involved.

As a leading Australian provider of corporate IT training, DDLS can help you develop such adaptive methods through AgileSHIFT. The 2-day AgileSHIFT course dives into the principles, practices, and common tools and techniques of agile management and performance – helping you and your team embrace enterprise change and transformation. Learn to cultivate an agile workforce, and enquire with us today.

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