Those who adapt, survive – it’s Biology 101.
The inability to adapt to changing circumstances is a team and organizational killer. We live in a VUCA world. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. It’s the new world order. It’s no surprise, then, that data shows that Agility is a core executive success factor.
Agility refers to an individual’s capacity for complexity, novelty, adaptability, cognitive flexibility, risk, ambiguity, and change. Individuals who are highly agile tend to eschew dogmatism and rigidity, and they place a particularly high value on learning and growing from experiences, including failures. 
This is a rich description and deserves some unpacking. A common theme is an acceptance and even comfort with the unknown. But uncertainties can be threatening and can amp us up – often quickly. We resist. We challenge. Even those who are naturally good at this can sometimes find themselves becoming rigid, narrow and, potentially, uncompromising.
But what if we thought of this lack of agility as an automatic stress response – something that we just do without even thinking about it? What if it’s the “go-to” response? It bodes the question, then, how can I open myself to other responses and not just dig in every time? So, we’re in Guiding Principles territory again:
- What helps you observe?
- How do you pause and interrupt your automatic response?
- What could help you do your best thinking on the subject?
- Are there other ways to think about the issue? (A mark of inflexibility is a refusal to receive new data.)
- How can you make yourself more open to receiving new information?
- After consideration, is your original position still the best option or not?
- What option will you choose and why?
A Virtual Thought:
There are now five ways that we’re communicating regularly:
- Phone Call
Only two of these allow for the opportunity to see non-verbal communication. And some say this can account for up to 80% of what’s being “said”. Especially for important discussions, they almost certainly will require the visual and sometimes harder approach of looking at someone directly.
To be clear, agility is not just giving in, letting it happen, or saying nothing. However, before holding a firm position, be sure that you’ve worked to lessen the reactivity and move more into deliberate thinking.
Finally, back to the description above, agile leaders place a particularly high value on learning and growing from experiences, including failures. I love that! As we say in our leadership development programs, “experiment!” Try it out. See what works. And, because we’re not perfect, we’ll make mistakes sometimes. But (it appears) mistakes can be some of our greatest teachers.
1 Attributed to Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus.
2 Korn Ferry Four Dimensional Executive Assessment, 2015, pp. 8 and 9