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Change Leadership Skills to Create an Agile Organization

By: Christine Giugni

I had a mini “aha” moment recently about the skills needed to create an agile organization. This moment occurred as I was auditing an AMA course, Planning and Managing Organizational Change, delivered onsite for one of our clients. It began with the course leader’s statement that “change leaders can come from anywhere in the organization. They are typically individuals in leadership roles who can help lead change initiatives that influence dozens to hundreds of others to do things differently by applying a few critical capabilities.”

Yes, I know this statement is an accepted principle in our field. Even so, it offers a vital perspective that rookie change managers can use to formulate their approach to change initiatives. It also provides a clue as to the kind of person leaders need to get on board when launching change in their organizations.

The Attitudes and Skills of Change Leadership

Before we return to that “aha” moment, consider this fact about change leaders: They help organizations plan and implement change by exhibiting attitudes and behaviors that build confidence and by modeling skills that support the change. Here are some of those attitudes and skills, as presented in the AMA course:

Adaptability

  • Taking a positive approach to change
  • Remaining open to new ideas
  • Being willing to change course, as needed

Strategic focus

  • Seeking to understand the big picture
  • Understanding the impact of business factors on the organization
  • Translating business strategy into change outcomes

Results focus

  • Working for measurable change
  • Taking a goal-oriented approach to change
  • Keeping others focused on the change goals

Fostering a collaborative approach

  • Working to partner with others
  • Seeking to involve others in decisions that impact them
  • Seeking to build consensus

Facilitating openness and understanding

  • Wanting to hear what others say
  • Helping others speak with candor
  • Testing assumptions to understand deeper issues

Encouraging learning

  • Responding quickly to changes in direction
  • Helping others recover from failure and get back on track
  • Extracting lessons learned from change

Creating an Agile Organization from Within

As we unpacked this list of qualities in the class, it occurred to me that the skills and behaviors above are the same ones now coveted in the emerging or transforming “agile organization.” Folks who have these skills are already in place in organizations and actively practicing the desired qualities. They can be harnessed in great ways to transform an organization.

With the growing need for agility, leaders may spend time studying and looking outward at agile characteristics—and then strategizing on how to help create them in our own organizations—when the qualities are already percolating internally. Perhaps more time could be spent on developing a strategy to ignite organizational agility from within. To navigate turbulent times and disruptive change, leaders must build agility and resilience into the organization’s DNA.

About the Author(s)

Christine Giugni  is a learning solutions manager for American Management Association’s seminars on strategic agility and execution, change management, and the fundamental “thinking” skills line. She has been with AMA for over four years and has nearly 20 years of professional organizational development experience, guiding and supporting Fortune 500 clients globally with their learning and development needs. As an expert in the L&D field, she also serves as a dedicated talent development solutions manager for AMA’s private client business.