Agile Leadership

Apr 03, 2020


Bill Joiner’s Change Model addresses "effective action in complex, rapidly changing conditions." What's your Agile Leadership arena, level, and type?

Right now, my gym is closed. So, I am doing all of my fitness training at home. I alternate between free-weight strength training and my new (and dreaded) cardio-focused High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routine. As with all new endeavors, it is hard to perform at the highest level without a bit of conditioning. Slowly, I am learning. I’m spending more time in bursts of activity and less time recovering between intervals. I am moving from novice to competent. It is the same with Agile Leadership, over time, we develop new skill and capacity.

“Leadership agility is the ability to take effective action in complex, rapidly changing conditions. Team and organizational agility refer to the same set of capacities in teams and organizations.” – ChangeWise

Huh? Let’s break it down… Bill Joiner’s Change Model includes the following areas of focus or action arenas: leading organizational change, improving team performance, and engaging in pivotal conversations. Using the fitness analogy, think of these as increasing muscle strength and cardio endurance. Joiner also refers to four types of agility:

  1. Context-Setting: Identifying scope and objectives (like setting my fitness goals)
  2. Stakeholder: Aligning with key sponsors and participants (like obtaining support from my husband for my 4:00AM workouts)
  3. Creative: Discerning issues and developing solutions (like stretching to prevent injury)
  4. Self-Leadership: Experimenting with new behaviors and learning (like trying new exercises).

Bill Joiner’s research, suggests “leadership agility evolves through five clearly identifiable levels that correspond to well-established stages of personal development: Expert, Achiever, Catalyst, Co-Creator, and Synergist.”

Ninety percent of organizations have leaders performing at the first three levels of agility:

  1. Expert: The majority of managers are operating at this level by making tactical improvements and solving problems (45%).
  2. Achiever: Achievers are leading strategic change, encouraging team performance, and conducting cross-boundary conversations (35%).
  3. Catalyst: The Catalyst tends to be a visionary, collaborating with highly-engaged teams for the purpose of transformational change for the organization (10%).

Leaders progressing from Expert to Synergist (extremely rare) are improving time to market, increasing operating efficiency, and engaging more customers and employees, all while generating higher revenue. Return on Agility is a thing, just like reaping benefits from a new workout routine is a thing. As my friend, Bob Benson of Colorado Business Christian Alliance would say, “This is a process, not an event.”

Additional Resource: American Management Association, The Five Levels of Leadership Agility

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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