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Home Day-to-day Issues Leadership agility the key differentiator for success

Leadership agility the key differentiator for success


Perhaps at no other time in history has adaptability been more important for good leadership than it is now. The nature of the global economy, the impact of the digital era, and diversity in the boardroom and in the workplace have transformed what is required for successful leadership. Today’s leaders need to demonstrate one key competency above all others: the agility to operate and think in a number of different ways, according to Leon Ayo, CEO of Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa.

“A crucial aspect of leadership agility is of course self-awareness – we have found that the highest performing leaders today are those that are interested, are good listeners, seek feedback and are able to change behaviour. They have emotional and social intelligence, a well-developed sense of compassion for others, and highly developed personal interaction skills,” says Ayo.

Research conducted by Odgers Berndtson has shown that agile leaders have the following traits:

  • Resilience. Leaders must be able to bounce back intellectually, physically and emotionally. There will always be knocks along the way – how you respond is what sets you up for success of failure.
  • Vision. The ability to define and communicate a clear vision and value set for an organisation that cascades successfully through all levels is critical – as is the ability to stick to the vision, while resetting the course when necessary.
  • People-centricity. If executives lead by example, and take care of their teams, employees will take care of the company’s mission and its clients. Having compassion for others is a trait that allows you to make a positive impact on the lives of your employees. Being people-centred will contribute immeasurably to a positive, happy culture.
  • Optimism. Positivity in the workplace leads to increased productivity – negative people can be a drain on any organisation. And try to keep your own bad moods out of the office!
  • Principles. Leaders should never let their desire to win, compromise who they are. A moral compass and strong set of principles are essential when steering a large organisation.
  • Innovation. The world is constantly changing – being brave enough to venture in new directions is critical for continued success.
  • Courage. Leaders need to be bold in their planning, and unafraid. They should be prepared to challenge the paradigm, take calculated risks, and learn from mistakes.

Open communication. How we communicate as leaders is critical – the distance between the CEO and employees is so much shorter these days.

Agile leaders also know how to behave in a fast-changing world and need to:

  • Ensure clear communication and understanding of team roles
  • Ensure that our personal values are aligned to those of the organisation, so we can practice true, authentic leadership
  • Create a mission-oriented culture of high performance
  • Be emotionally, physically and intellectually robust
  • Innovate and listen to our markets.

“Over the next 10 years, change in our world will take place even faster than over the past decade. This will generate more diversity, creativity and innovation, and of course, competition. Leadership agility will be the key competency and differentiator for success in this rapidly changing world,” says Ayo.


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