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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Make flexibility your superpower

Not only does an agile ethos save time and effort, but it also inspires, engages, and motivates people to work at their full potential.

Make flexibility your superpower
[Photo Source: fizkes/Adobe Stock Card Link:]

The last year has seen our world turned upside down. It has tested businesses globally, and we have reacted with varying degrees of success. Some responded quickly and innovatively, and they undoubtedly came out on top. And there we have the lesson—the subtle difference between reacting and responding.

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All businesses had to react to the global pandemic, whether it was simply a relocation of their workforce or a large process transformation. Some are still reacting. But those that were set up to be able to respond quickly, proactively even, and collaborate from anywhere have been able to provide near seamless continuity of business. Some found that the level of agility in their business actually provided stability in uncertain times.

An agile business is defined as a business that “can respond quickly and effectively to opportunities and threats found in its internal and external environments (be they commercial, legal, technological, social, moral, or political).” Agility is something that is in the very DNA of a business, and even the culture is set up to enable individuals to be more adaptive, creative, and resilient. Agile teams collaborate, learn from each other, get quick feedback, and are focused on quality and continuous learning.

Agile leadership creates a safe environment for empowering and nurturing these characteristics, allowing self-organization to some extent. Agile leaders set a clear vision that teams can embrace and own. Their teams live it on a daily basis and function autonomously within their set boundaries.

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BEING AN AGILE LEADER BRINGS GREAT ADVANTAGES. 

We can openly accept that this statement is true, given our latest business lessons learned. The next step is to consider how we can foster agility within a business. And that comes from the top.

It is about leading with compassion, openness, and authenticity. It is about living in the present but scanning to the future. It is always listening and being curious about new ideas and possibilities, and continuously learning. It is about being resilient and thriving in a time of frequent disruption, through self-awareness and empowering others. It is about being comfortable, being uncomfortable, and leading by example.

A true agile leader is a humble one. They create an ecosystem instilled with trust and safety, where everyone and all ideas are welcomed and truly listened to. And they also acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers.

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AGILE LEADERSHIP CAN BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUCCESS AND FAILURE. 

Agility may be the buzzword of the moment, but a flexible and adaptable way of doing business is nothing new. It is essential for operating in an ever-changing landscape.

When rapidly evolving market trends take over (a global pandemic, for example) businesses need to be able to move quickly and easily in response. This is where the idea of self-sustaining agility comes into its own and can make the difference between mere survival and success.

Strategically it makes sense, especially as it is predicted that the landscape isn’t likely to settle down anytime soon. But it also makes sense because it maximizes the potential of your biggest asset: your people.

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Agile businesses empower teams and individuals to take the lead on projects and decisions (within clear parameters) without needing sign-off from leaders. This brings obvious speed advantages, but also the buy-in advantages I mentioned above. Not only does an agile ethos save time and effort, but it also inspires, engages, and motivates people to work at their full potential.

This has a positive impact on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment, and also on the service that you provide to your clients. If people are being the best they can be and doing the best they can do, then customer queries will be answered quicker and better, creative solutions will be found before a problem is raised, communication will be transparent, and new ideas and perspectives will turn into innovation.

All of this adds value, from the leaders who don’t have to get bogged down in the day-to-day and can focus on their strengths to the front-line employees who feel trusted by their managers and their clients.

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On the one hand, creating a flexible, agile business may be seen by some as a loss of power because it involves delegating decision-making responsibilities in the interest of creating empowered teams. On the other hand, it could be seen as the (not so secret) superpower that your business needs to thrive in the future.


Eric Schurke, CEO North America, Moneypenny. Moneypenny handles outsourced phone calls, live chat and digital comms.

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