Why Is Leadership Agility a Vital Capability?

The only constant, as the phrase goes, is change. Change in business can occur on a huge scale during major undertakings such as a merger or acquisition, or it can occur incrementally over the usual course of corporate progression. In any case, leaders must be fluid and adaptive while driving or managing change.

Leaders that are unable to keep up with the rapid rate of change risk falling behind, losing trust, and ultimately failing to deliver outcomes. As a result, organisations should deliberately cultivate the crucial capacity of leadership agility required to stay competitive and relevant.

The capacity to pivot rapidly, adapt swiftly, and make solid judgements in the face of uncertainty is referred to as leadership agility. Being proactive, anticipating possible disruptions, and skillfully guiding people through change and ambiguity are also required.

Differentiating Between Large-Scale and Incremental Change

Organisational change can take numerous forms, but it can be divided into two types: large-scale change and gradual change.

Large-scale change entails considerable modifications in organisational strategy, structure, and/or culture, and is often prompted by macro, external marketplace influences such as technical advancements, globalisation, and altering customer needs. When executive leadership executes a merger or acquisition, announces a restructuring, or embarks on an enterprise-wide transformation, large-scale change may also occur.

Large-scale change is frequently disruptive and difficult for employees since it demands individuals and teams to adjust to new methods of working, as well as new technology and leadership. When the status quo is challenged, it is usual for employees to show opposition, feel uneasy, and struggle with ambiguity.

Incremental change, on the other hand, is characterised by smaller, more gradual adjustments. Internal pressures, such as a desire to improve efficiency, production, or customer pleasure, are frequently driving this sort of transformation. Incremental change may not always occur at the business level, but might be more localised within a division, function, region, or team.

Because it involves smaller adjustments to existing processes and structures, incremental change is generally less disruptive and easier to implement than large-scale change. Regardless, employees may have similar reactions and emotions.

How Organisations Navigate Large-Scale and Incremental Change Successfully

Whether the change is huge or little, organisations may boost their chances of success by adhering to four principles:

Principle 1: Evaluate the impact of change and business risks ahead of time

People are more likely to resist change when senior leadership does not completely and clearly express the rationale for change as well as the possible individual and organisational consequences. To handle change successfully, executives must foresee the impact and possible dangers to the organisation, staff, and consumers. By doing so, executives may proactively plan for potential hurdles and impediments rather of reacting to them, reducing risks and negative effects.

Principle 2: Use a methodical and controlled implementation cascade

Many authors have emphasised the importance of execution planning and collaborating with change agents at all levels of the organisation. A well-planned and disciplined implementation cascade focusing on organisational, team, and individual levels ensures that everyone participating in the change process understands their role and what is expected of them. This strategy also allows for a systematic rollout to guarantee that any difficulties are resolved in a timely, effective, and efficient manner.

Principle 3: Focus on organisational culture to accelerate transformation

Every company has a culture. Steve Denning defines an organization’s culture in a Forbes article as «an interlocking set of goals, roles, processes, values, communication practises, attitudes, and assumptions [that] fit together as a mutually reinforcing system.»

When individuals are prepared to challenge the status quo, see that disruption gives possibilities for organisational and individual growth, and are comfortable pivoting when necessary, a strong, dynamic culture is obvious. Employees are more likely to adopt and adapt in this atmosphere. A weak or resistive culture, on the other side, may stymie or even sabotage reform initiatives. Organisations may establish an atmosphere that fosters change and encourages everyone to work together towards a similar goal by concentrating on organisational culture.

Principle 4: Prepare leaders to lead change

Edgar H. Schein’s seminal study emphasises the crucial role leaders play in cultural development and preservation, as well as driving and managing change. Leaders must communicate the need for change, guide teams through the shift, and ensure that everyone is engaged, motivated, and performing at their best. Organisations may boost their chances of success by providing leaders with the skills and resources they need to successfully manage change.

All types of change need leadership agility

Effective and adaptable leadership is critical to the success of both large-scale and gradual organisational transformation. Leaders must be able to explain the need for change effectively, involve people in the change process, and manage change resistance.

Leaders must weigh the advantages of change against the disruption and expense to the organisation. They must also determine the optimal balance of incremental vs large-scale change in order to maximise organisational effectiveness.

Why Is Training for Leadership Agility So Difficult?

Leadership agility is a sophisticated and multifaceted skill set that includes cognitive, emotional, and behavioural abilities. Developing these qualities necessitates a major time and effort investment, as well as a willingness to question pre-existing beliefs and behaviours.

4 Ways Learning and Development Can Curate Learning Solutions That Promote Leadership Agility

Leadership agility cannot be achieved overnight and requires a deliberate learning solution that leads in meaningful behaviour change. When developing leadership agility, here are four ways that learning and development (L&D) professionals can drive true behaviour change.

A realistic framework should be used to anchor leadership agility training

The majority of organisations are worried about training becoming «sticky.» By fostering consistency and providing a consistent vernacular for the whole organisation, practical frameworks lay the groundwork for meaningful behaviour change at the macro-level.

Emphasise experiential learning

Through simulations and/or role-playing exercises, leaders should learn to apply the framework to real-world business challenges and practise behaviours in a safe and controlled environment.

Make materials available to make training more practical

Adding real-world resource application to training events is a sure-fire approach to make learning more practical. Leader implementation toolkits and task aids for rapid reference on the job are examples of resources.

Resist the impulse to provide impromptu training

Leadership agility is not something that can be learned in a single training session. Learning professionals should carefully design a learning experience that motivates leaders to repeatedly learn and use leadership agility abilities.


Large-scale and gradual changes in today’s quickly changing environment need leaders who can successfully negotiate and balance the rewards and possible pitfalls of change. Leaders must be able to pivot swiftly, adapt rapidly, and make solid judgements in the face of uncertainty in order to successfully lead and navigate change. Leadership agility, on the other hand, is a complicated and diverse ability that demands a large investment of time and effort to master.

Developing learning solutions that result in long-term, beneficial behaviour change might seem daunting. L&D professionals, on the other hand, may improve organisational leadership agility by anchoring training in a practical framework, emphasising experiential learning, and connecting training with the organization’s goals.

Organisations that effectively equip their executives to lead and negotiate complex change efforts stand to gain a long-term competitive edge and market success.

Attend the upcoming Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) in person to hear Wendy Heckelman and Tianna Tye’s talk, «Change Happens! «Agility in leadership is a critical capability.»


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