Characteristics of Agile Leaders

Published: Jun 18, 2020
Modified: Apr 09, 2024



Although the word “agility” is sometimes overused in the business world, major world events such as those we’re presently experiencing have made it an essential concept for a vast number of organizations. That means that, in order to be successful in today’s climate, every leader has to recognize, understand and develop the characteristics of agile leaders. No team can achieve true agility without a strong and agile leader to guide them.

In order to be resilient and able to cope with drastic changes, your team needs a strong, focused and agile leader who can provide assured direction and instill confidence.

Here are the key characteristics you must develop in order to be a truly agile leader:

Be focused. As a leader, you always need to be aware of the organizational vision as well as the projects that support it, but this is especially true when conditions require greater agility. Your focus must be on those key projects as priorities for achieving the desired business results. In addition, you must be disciplined enough to decline attractive projects that don’t support the big vision.

Think strategically. The big picture focus must carry through to daily activities where distractions and emergencies can easily pull focus from the organizational vision. By maintaining a strategic mindset, you can still be a hands-on leader but not get bogged down with operational details at the expense of strategy.

Act with boldness. When agility is a priority, it is more important than ever to have the resolute courage of your convictions. Be “all-in” and take bold action, because agility is also about expediency—but keep in mind that you must also maintain focus, be strategic, and keep the other attributes of agile leaders in mind. Bold actions must also be well informed and carefully considered; bold does not mean impulsive.

Inspire your team. People can become weary if too much of an agility mindset is imposed upon them. That’s why it’s essential to keep team members engaged in the process and the overall organizational goal. Always be conscious of and ready to inspire, persuade, negotiate where necessary, and defend the business need for transformation.

Be consistent. A sure way to lose team engagement and compromise business objectives is to lack consistency in thoughts and actions. Be “in it for the long haul” and make sure everything you do, every day, reflects that commitment. Make sure you consistently set the example, consistently expect behaviors that lead to resilience, consistently coach for these behaviors, and consistently and publicly recognize these behaviors when you see them.

Maintain resilience. The best laid plans can and will go astray. You will get pushback and resistance, from team members and other leaders, so be committed to staying resilient. All of the characteristics of agile leaders must work in unison, so by staying focused on all the attributes of agile leaders and not just some of them, you can stay strong and resilient while keeping momentum going for the long run.

Keep a dynamic mindset. Agility obviously implies movement, so always be cognizant of the need to keep things in motion and maintain the momentum of what you’re doing. One of the best ways of keeping projects and planning flowing is to over-communicate and to establish specific deadlines and accountabilities for your team.

Remember to be flexible. While agile leaders need to maintain strong focus, there still needs to be some give and take. You are leading people, and people have their own ideas about how to make things happen. Be on the lookout for and welcome regular feedback, listen to the people around you, and be ready to pivot if you sense that you’re going down the wrong path. You also need to be prepared to push others to make the pivot.

Be networked. This characteristic also speaks to the importance of regular communication, not only on your own team but with others throughout the organization. Keep an eye on what’s happening in the company, and who is who; that is, have detailed knowledge of your people and their abilities and potential, as well as a good awareness of others in the organization whose actions impact you and your team. Being “out of the loop” is one of the biggest enemies of agility.

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