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Leadership Agility In Tough Times



Earlier this week, when I met with my leadership team, I had to stop mid-sentence to do a health check in. As I looked around the room, I saw exhaustion and distraction. I paused and asked, “how is everyone doing? Are you ok? The answers were united, but quite frankly lack luster. As one person put it – “we’re over it…all of it!”


Despite declining positive Covid cases, the fear of a surge is still lingering overhead. We’ve begun meeting in person, but we still have plenty of external company virtual meetings and we all feel like we are on a hamster wheel feverishly running trying to catch up.


I understood their frustration, because I’m there too. So we took a few minutes and talked about the many accomplishments that we’ve experienced so far this year. We made adjustments in some of our capacity building projects to adjust for staff shortages and/or supply issues.


In short we’ve been exhibiting agile leadership. Agile leadership is the tightrope walk needed for success in the fast-paced, ever-changing business world, particularly when multiple crisis’ are in play.


As one crisis fades, another is quick on its heels. Leaders have to learn how to swim with their eyes open underwater and paddle faster than the waves, lest the organization is swept away and the employees are left to fend for themselves on the shores.


Several years ago, I had the pleasure of participating in an executive coaching program sponsored by Goodwill Industries International. One of the top-level instructors was Bill Joiner. Joiner and Stephen Josephs co-authored the book, “Leadership Agility,” which is one of my top business “go to” books.


The book identifies five levels of leadership agility:


1. Expert Level – which describes how leaders at this level solve key problems

2. Achiever Level – which describes how leaders at this level accomplish desired outcomes

3. Catalyst Level – which describes how leaders at this level mobilize breakout endeavors

4. Co-Creator Level – which describes how leaders at this level realize a shared purpose

5. Synergist Level – which describes how leaders at this level evoke unexpected possibilities


In a time when so many people are struggling with increasing gas and grocery prices, global threats, continued racial unrest, supply chain delays, increasing demands at work, and at home, leadership agility is essential.


It’s important for leaders to pause and check in. You may need to reset your expectations and recalibrate the amount of people and time that it will take to complete projects.


This is also a crucial time for leaders to re-commit to their diversity, equity and inclusion plans. When companies are short on time and people, it’s easy to push aside non-revenue generating efforts. However, during tough times, we need everyone giving their best. The way to encourage that is to prioritize programs that help to develop a sense of belonging, and build diverse teams who work together as they grow their leadership agility.

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