Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Agile Leader in a Digital Age

Just before Christmas I had the pleasure to work with a wonderful group of young digital leaders who are charged with transforming the way their traditional large organisation does business. This digital transformation is impacting all our lives, as we now take for granted that we book flights, trains and cabs via apps on our smartphones. Our January new year’s resolutions are now ‘enhanced’ by Fitbits and I know my son can’t wait for his February birthday and his Nike Apple Watch 2!

So, we well and truly live in this fast and furious digital world, where small organisations with great ideas can outsource their manufacturing, use a sales platform like Amazon and take on the giants! I feel it is a world with endless possibilities and leaders need to be able to rise to the challenge.

Agile is a word that I see used in IT project management, but I like the simple definition of the word which is ‘able to move quickly and easily’. Organisations need to be able to respond rapidly to changes, so leaders need to be able to get the best out of their people (millennials through to boomers), inspiring them, growing their capability, and empowering them to succeed. They also must be able to convince senior management, who invariably are not digital natives, to sign off investment for ‘things’ they don’t totally understand.

The model I have designed to capture the essence of this modern, agile leader, thriving in this digital age, has the following attributes: -

The powerful ‘engine’ that drives the leadership model

·         Emotional Intelligence – I have spent the last 20 years helping leaders (subtlety) to develop their emotional intelligence. You know when the military invest heavily in developing leadership skills, that command and control is well and truly dead! Working as a trainer and coach with generations of leaders, convinces me beyond any doubt that leaders who can manage their own emotions and have empathy for the situations of others, who can lift the spirits of their followers, are going to be the success stories of this digital age.

·         Four core skills – emotional intelligence then feeds into the ability to:-
  • Rapidly build trust - if you want things done fast you need to be open and transparent and cut out the bullshit!
  • Genuinely listen with empathy
  • Ask thoughtful and provoking questions
  • Provide amazing constructive feedback
 ·     Growth Mindset – a fixed mindset has resulted in the demise of many well know businesses and the careers of countless leaders. Leaders with a growth mindset accept that to survive they need to change, to continuously learn, take on new challenges to grow. With a Growth Mindset, leaders open up to failures and use them to learn and get better at whatever they do.

The four key roles of an Agile Digital Leader

  • Inspiring Leader – able to engage people and excite them about new possibilities. This means having a high level of communication skills, being able to deliver key messages with high impact in the limited amount of time available to do so. Engaging people however is not enough, as once people are interested they need to be influenced so that they become committed and act to bring about the changes. This is a great set of skills that deliver results fast, which is essential in a digital world.
  • Smart Manager – someone who can recruit, motivate, develop and retain the right talent. Able to plan and organise, working is a simpler, smarter and quicker way to deliver value to the organisation.
  • Engaging Facilitator – who has a deep understanding of team dynamics and what makes a high performing team. Able to get the best out of teams, getting them excited about their vision and committed to the roadmap to deliver on their promises.
  • Performance Coach – able to develop a deep level of trust and use the skills and tools to help team members perform to their full potential.

This is what the final model looks like.