Get REAL: A is for Agility (Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta!)

Apr 28, 2021
The story goes that in ancient Greece a boastful athlete bragged that he once achieved a stupendous long jump in competition on the island of Rhodes. A bystander challenges him to dispense with the reports of the witnesses and simply repeat his accomplishment on the spot: "Here is Rhodes, jump here!" (Hic Rhodus, hic salta!).

Agility became one more household word in leadership lately, especially after it was fully embraced by the booming IT industry. In its essence, it requires quickly adapting to changing circumstances, flexibility, reshaping strategies, structures, people and technologies.

However, most of these elements we have already attributed to resilience. And quite rightfully so. So, what is makes agility so specific and so important that it has to be discussed separately?

Hic Rhodus, hic salta! – Move to action. We can be resilient to the core and then lose everything to procrastination, the nemesis of agility. Regardless of the existing COVID mess (or, more probably just because of it), VUCA world is accelerating: Whether it is the continuing digital revolution or expansion of new services (e-commerce), our current environment requires a constant state of innovation. For companies to continue succeeding, next generation leaders must be able to handle any curve ball thrown their way. Leading through this new business environment requires the capability to sense and respond to changes in the business environment with concrete and pragmatic actions that are focused, fast and flexible.  

If the business can adapt and lead change in a productive and cost-effective way that doesn’t compromise the quality of their product or service, then that business will weather almost any storm. It not only helps a business when markets change, but it gives them a competitive advantage over other business that are slower to action.

Agility is the main ingredient in shaping the leaders of the new generation. As Jeff Bezos of Amazon, puts it, “in business you have to be both robust and nimble”. Robust relates to resilience (sometimes you win, sometimes you fail, but you go on). Being nimble at work requires proactive, decisive leadership openness and willingness to take calculated risk. In order to make this a successful approach, communication should happen quickly, accurately, and effectively. In a nutshell, agile mindset should be adopted.

How does that look in practice? Agile leaders are creative thinkers with the deep sense of purpose – they are quick to act when needed, they make necessary decisions always striving to learn more and gather knowledge that can be put into practice. They are motivated by expanding their horizons, questioning the status quo and actively engage in facing and resolving challenges. They thrive off of solving the difficult problems within the organization, as they believe it mutually benefits themself and the company. They have the ability to take on major assignments in a variety of departments. They anticipate and take action, leading the change that has huge impact the organization.  

“And they lived happily ever after” – this is the stuff fairy tales are made of. It is every executive’s dream employee/associate. The harsh reality is that it is estimated that only about 10 percent of today’s employees have the appropriate levels of this “leadership agility”; finding this particular individual from a pool of candidates is no easy task.

Creating awareness about the importance of agility in the organization can help us close ranks and turn to the internal resources: that is where all the time, money and dedication of the past decades in developing talents can come into practice. By identifying and developing high-potential talent, with the right set of skills now required in the VUCA and COVID-transformed world, businesses can improve responsiveness to both internal and external challenges and with it, their ability to deliver strategic priorities.  Having an agile leader on the team effectively takes the company from good to great. It is the responsibility of existing leaders, who were shaped in another time and in another world to find in themselves strength, determination and willingness to pass the baton to the new generation of executives. Most of all, they have to trust the newcomers, to make them welcome and mentor them on the long and winding road to success, all the time remembering basic truths: the agile leader builds an agile team. A team for whom no obstacle is too big. A team who identifies creative solutions to leap over tall obstacles. A team that is hard to beat.

Hic Rodus, hic salta. Now.

 

Author: Svetlana Mirković Borčić, People and Culture Manager

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