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MANAGEMENT: Leadership Agility - Thriving in Changing, Global Times
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altThe world is constantly changing. To lead means that you need to be constantly adjusting and upgrading your leadership ‘software’. Previously the rate of change was slower, occurred with differing intensities and with varying degrees of transparency in a much more divided, sometimes information starved and pre-internet closed borders world. Today, things may still be scary but they come more from the overwhelming amounts of information we must integrate to make good leadership decisions. We live in a more evenly transparent, vibrant, highly fluid, technology-driven and cross-culturally interactive global economy. ‘Leadership Agility’ has made a difference in who ‘succeeds’ and who will no longer be a part of the global landscape—politically, economically and socially. What makes up that quality of leadership agility whereby decisions endure the test of changing times?  Is it a matter of nature, what we have inherited in our DNA, or nurture, that is, something that can be learned and developed? Is it purely situational and the chance forces of history at work?
 
Over the past 35+ years, we’ve witnessed the evolution of leadership development from a Traits Theory to Behavioural Style, including stimulus-response Skinnerian approaches to Situational Leadership to Integrated Psychological theory introducing Servant and Authentic leadership models, and back to revisiting Leadership Personality Styles in an integrative approach. There is no simple formula for Leadership – neither for identifying who will be a great leader, nor what approach will work in the next situation you or anyone else faces.  These are intangible elements that offer key insights for personal and organisational development.
 
altWhen Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile barrier on the track sixty years ago, an extraordinary phenomenon occurred – the original universally accepted physical ‘barrier’, was broken... for all times. The human body had not fundamentally changed.  What changed were mental, emotional and psychological inner qualities. When mastered, these intangible attributes can change history and human potential.  
 
This metaphor applies to Leadership.  The mental-emotional-psychological inner drive is at least as important as the academic and intellectual factors that have long been identified as important to leaders. Human psychological qualities reflect an agility that impacts possibilities for all humans. The key measurable factors of these psychological qualities are personality (nature) and emotional intelligence (nurture). With skills learned through training and formal education, these additional qualities help us to understand how to better approach situations to be more effective in our personal leadership styles, individually and in groups.
 
Leadership Agility offers great opportunities for those with keen mental and emotional communication agility. We’ve seen that swift or dire consequences await those who cling to outdated, growing-up-in-clenched-fist times. Such an approach easily topples leadership and relationships within teams, organisations or communities.  The more we are able to lead and communicate with an offered palm, gently supporting, guiding, mentoring others to fly on their own when the time is ripe, the brighter is our personal, organisational and community future.
 
The good news: much of this agility can be learned, and in a fun way!  Regardless of your past experience, education or cultural background, communicating with leadership agility is based on caring and curiosity - something innate to our human spirit, regardless of cultural or ethnic origin. No one needs an advanced academic degree to master the fundamentals of caring and curiosity.  Each of us expresses how we care and we are curiously interested in the world around us in different ways.  That’s where Leadership Agility comes in.  Your leadership will reflect your personal uniqueness, but will also allow you to develop a new and easily understood universal language in relationships. This is at the core of leadership development. 
 
altThis is not to say that we won’t all make a mess of things from time to time, or even often.  That is our fastest learning curve and we’re all human!  The mistakes we make may well be our best indicator of Leadership Agility– or perhaps more accurately, how fast and well we recover from making mistakes. Our ability to be caring allows us to understand the critically sensitive ‘timing’ element when communicating with another, as well as to make amends quickly when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings. But, it is curiosity that allows us to not take the other’s mistakes too personally. Instead, by remaining open to, for example, the other person having a bad day and not having all the information, helps us maintain our sense of humour - the hallmark of a truly outstanding leader in any field or culture. The natural talents and current motivation to either be more caring or curious can be measured.
 
Many tools are used to assess personality and leadership style. One that we have found very useful in helping managers and teams is the PREP Profile, which is a simple, globally and cross-culturally sensitive personality assessment with leadership-team system of reports, charts and curricula for organisations and individuals. The PREP Profile reports identify leadership styles - based on personality, energy reserve, current attitudes and motivation.  Nine Primary Factors, such as a more personal communication style (Caring) or more objective communication style (Curious), are easily identified. Additionally, the current individual or collective group motivation and stress level is assessed, which are very helpful in the interview process for hiring, or coaching a current employee. Coaching leaders to better understand timing in communicating and relationship development is simplified by identifying an individual’s natural talents, current motivation and attitudes.
 
The beauty of this tool is its simplicity of use. It takes only 5 minutes to complete and can be done in Chinese, English, German, Spanish, Thai, French or Arabic. Full reports are available in the English, Chinese and German. The PREP Profile has been successfully cross-validated with the Myers-Briggs Type Instrument, Cattell 16-PF assessment, including Quadrant style instruments and ‘The Big Five’. The assessment has been used on all continents, in global and entrepreneurial organizations as well as by numerous professional coaches in the organizational development and human resources fields.
 
altThe PREP reports deal directly with the personalities of different individuals and the impact that has on shaping a team or organisational culture– especially when integrated with the profile of the founder or head of the organisation/team. PREP training and curricula integrate cross cultural/generational and gender differences.
 
The PREP Profile emphasizes Leadership Agility through its unique emphasis on communicating to different personality styles, genders, cultures and generations based on a listening model of building trust.  
 
To begin any ‘agile’ communication, we must first listen to the whole person: personality, gender, generation, culture. Then, we need to understand their background. When understanding takes place, communication can be selected carefully and sensitively for well-matched timing either with a sense of urgency or relaxedness depending on the situation. Then, trust can be developed and maintained while continually listening to each person, not just the ‘words’ being used.
 
The PREP Profile System has been useful for global acquisitions, to better understand the intangible, cultural elements that often go awry, when “the numbers looked good”. Personality styles are very consistent and reliable across cultures and genders in understanding basic approaches to communication and problem-solving… to be more caring or curious, for example. Using a system like PREP helps good leaders to become agile leaders to weather the storms of cultural and technological change. Reading the signs of hazards ahead makes good sense and is a small investment for necessary on-going organisational change, developing Leadership Agility to thrive with more change ahead.
 
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