The 2012 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting had a discussion session titled “Leadership Models Across Generations.” The purpose of this discussion was to identify “what leadership traits inspire and engage both younger and experienced generations.“
It concluded with the following observations:
The fundamentals of leadership have not changed; yet technology and new generations have transformed the context and style of leadership.
Modern leaders will succeed if they can harness the power of younger generations, while managing the generational divide.
So, while the key aspects of leadership – like setting a vision, determining objectives and measuring outcomes – seem to be timeless, the particulars associated with exhibiting leadership qualities are shaped by the time and place in which they need to be demonstrated.
21st Century Leaders
The challenge for leaders in the 21st Century is to develop and adopt a style of strategic and innovative leadership approach that rather than address the threats of the past is able to quickly adapt and address the opportunities of tomorrow.
This, as observed by Paul J.H. Schoemaker, Steve Krupp, and Samantha Howland in “Strategic Leadership: The essential Skills,” will require the leader to the following:
- Be exposed to a suitable set of networks to help see opportunities
- Be able to identify and then challenge self and others’ assumptions
- Have an adequate approach for getting a diverse group to buy-in to a common vision
- Learn from one’s mistakes
While there would be various solutions addressing the possible path a leader could take in responding to the above challenge, each of these solutions will need, at the very least, to comply with and address the observation made above.
For a solution to be a viable, successful and meaningful one, it will need to “harness the power of younger generations, while managing the generational divide.”
On Business Agility
One of the emerging trends, especially in the context of software development but also, increasingly, in other domains, is that of Agile, or in the broader sense, the concept of Business Agility.
“an organization’s ability to sense environmental change and respond efficiently and effectively to that change.“
This definition, simple as it might be, lacks clarity and practicality as it deals with the outcome of agility and not with agility itself.
It is worth noting that the Economist Intelligence Unit published a study in 2009, titled “Organizational Agility: How business can survive and thrive in turbulent times“, where it concluded that:
Nearly 90% of executives surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit believe that organisational agility is critical for business success. One-half of all chief executive officers (CEOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) polled agree that rapid decision-making and execution are not only important, but essential to a company’s competitive standing. Agility may also be linked to profitable growth: research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggests that agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits than non-agile companies.
Interestingly, the report also suggests that alongside the above observations
- “most companies admit they are not flexible enough to compete successfully“, and further claim that
- “Internal barriers stall agile change efforts“.
The apparent increase in the level of Agile adoption (in the area of software development, but also, increasingly, in other domains as well) in recent years seems to link perfectly with the next generational change as we witness the gradual increase of Generation Y in the workforce.
Gen Yers are perfectly ‘engineered’ to adopt Agile.
The collaborative aspect of the Agile approach is perfect for a generation who grew up in a collaborative, social media driven environment.
On Leadership Agility
So, what is Business Agility and what does it take to establish Agile Leadership?
Agility, in a nut-shell is about a way of thinking and the adoption of certain values. As such, being an agile leader does not denote a recommended set of processes or procedures but rather an established set of attitudes and behaviors.
While the original set of Agile values were set around the concept of software development, these can be conceptualized into the following four core leadership values:
- People are more important than processes and tools
- Knowledge is incremental and is enhanced through experimentation and observation
- Collaboration is fundamental to achieving buy-in and co-operation
- Change is a given and as such quick adaptation is more important than following a fixed and rigid plan.
The Path to Business Agility
The path to Business Agility, utilizing the well rehearsed values and practices established by the Agile movement is now open for all to use.
While not all organizations and, indeed, not all leaders, are ready for this approach, the ‘Agile train’ has already left the station.
You could be ignoring the trend and prefer to remain on the sideline while it goes by, or you can join in and be part of the journey.
The choice is yours. What would it be? Think about it!
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- Agile Business Management: Adaptability for Sustainable Business Growth (architects.dzone.com)
- Is Your Company Offensive Or Defensive In Strategy? Competition Lessons From Tiger Woods To Win Majors In Golf And Business (thehartford.com)
- Agile Business Needs an Agile Org (davidhoma.wordpress.com)