Agile Leadership – staying resilient in a volatile world

John Hall

agileagilityAsset ManagementAsset Managementleadershipresilience

As leaders, it is difficult to maintain equilibrium in a world of exponential change. As well as significant changing megatrends, such as globalisation, artificial intelligence, and changing socio-economic trends, leaders are also pressured by the daily demands on their own time. Overall, staying resilient can be very challenging

 

This session provided an open forum in which business leaders could discuss their experiences of combatting business change, passing on lessons and discussing how best to future proof their businesses.

 

Headlines


• Whilst the internal definition of resilience and agility differs amongst business leaders, overall the common thread is MANAGING CHANGE.
• Building better resilience often comes from within a business. Leaders need to take the time to listen to colleagues from across the organisation and ensure a range of voices are heard.
• Business resilience is ultimately linked to the personal resilience of business leaders

 

Key themes


The roundtable opened with a discussion on the definitions of agility and resilience amongst business leaders, specifically: What do we mean by resilience and agility? Delegates overwhelmingly focused their discussions on the theme of managing business change. Two strands of thought stood out: the decision-making process itself and the role of the new generation in shaping those changes.


All delegates agreed there is a pressure within the industry to be seen to be “keeping up”. However, one delegate noted the tendency to be too agile: to go along with trends, despite the reality not being beneficial in the long term. One delegate highlighted the issue of when to implement change, giving the example of a business undergoing an extraordinary period of growth. In this circumstance, there was internal pressure to continue with the status quo, as this had led to the business growth, however in practice many of the systems in place, such as the leadership model, still reflected the old business model. It was therefore not futureproofed, nor resilient.


The second area of focus was the mindset required for agile growth. Delegates overwhelmingly stressed the benefits of encouraging graduates to innovate, giving them a voice through specific forums or working groups. There was agreement that younger generations have agile characteristics: younger workers are more willing to fail and fail again in the pursuit of a better way. They are braver and have a growth mindset, as opposed to older generations who are more likely to have a fixed mindset.


By contrast, employee retention proved to be a topic of concern for workforce resilience, specifically amongst employees of 4+ years tenure. Delegates agreed that, particularly in contrast to graduates, teams in their late twenties and thirties were the ‘least satisfied’, often feeling stifled and impatient. As leaders, this led to the question of combatting this, noting the tendency to focus on the enthusiastic new intakes and overlook this middle set, who are often at a pivotal time in their careers, learning how to become accountable.


This cultivated in an agreement about staying ‘match fit’, creating an infrastructure which is prepared for change, responding workforce concerns, taking small, realistic, progressive steps to achieving change and accepting as a company that change is an ever-present state. Part of this is taking time to focus on personal resilience. Delegates highlighted the need to seek council, take advice, use that advice and then pass it on, as well as the importance backing yourself.

 

Conclusions


• As leaders, we would not have raised into our current positions without being resilient. It is therefore important to think about how to teach it, not necessarily always providing a solution, but giving employees the space to find a solution for themselves.
• Don’t mistake building a resilient and agile business for simply “keeping up” with industry trends make changes which are specifically right for your business
• A leader is only as good as their followers: a resilient business is built by listening to team across the broad spectrum of the business
• Create an infrastructure which is prepared for change and accepting as a company that change is an ever-present state.


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