What Leadership Really Means In Today’s Agile Environment?

Today's Fast Paced Business Environment Is an Agile Environment

Today's business environment is what I call a fast environment. In a fast environment, things happen very quickly. In particular, your organization might find itself encountering threats and opportunities. And to be a successful organization, you have to react quickly and effectively to those threats and opportunities. That's what it means to be fast.

Technology is really changing the extent to which being an effective organization is about being a fast organization. Technology has effectively shrunk the world, which means yours competitors can come from anywhere. If you want to be a successful organization, if you want to be a successful industry, you have to be able to react quickly in a fast business environment.

Technology is not only changing the breadth of competition, it's also changing the speed of competition. Because technology has made it faster to connect to people anywhere in the world and that can bring customers but also competitors from almost anywhere into your backyard very, very quickly.

So that means to be a successful organization you have to be an agile organization. That means you have to be quick to respond to those threats and opportunities.

Agility Is a Social Process

Agility is, at the end of the day, a social process. That means agility comes from managing the workforce more effectively. Taking advantage of the resource represented by the people around you. The best managers achieve agility by influence that gets people working together effectively. And we can think of that as a very basic definition for the idea of leadership.

Leadership is about getting people to work together more effectively.

Here are some leaders that you're probably familiar with in today's worlds. Oprah Winfrey, Joan of Arc, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, General George Patton.

All of these are individuals who have displayed exceptional leadership, and they come from a variety of different industries, a variety of different walks of life. And I think, even more importantly, some have exhibited exceptional leadership in the context of a very strong authority position. So George Patton was very important in the US army. Steve Jobs was one of the heads of one of the most important computer companies in the United States. But some of these other leaders have experienced and have exhibited leadership without having authority to go with it.

Distinction Between Leaders and Managers

That really brings up a very important distinction, the distinction between leaders and managers. Managers rely on their authority to implement, to get things done. In effect, they can implicitly coerce the people around them. When authority figures ask you to do things, you often do them because if you don't, you may lose your position. Leaders on the other hand, rely on persuasion implement. They try to convince you that what they want you to do is something that will make you better off, is something that you should want to do anyway. We can think of a couple of different ways in which leaders accomplish this.

Transformational leaders achieve this by making the goal the reward. So whatever goal they are trying to achieve, they make you feel that, that's in your best interest for you to achieve it as well.

Transactional leaders, on the other hand, reward you in exchange for achieving the goal that they are intending.

But at the end of the day, what this means is that leaders get followers to want to do what the leader needs them to do. That's really the essence of good leadership. You don't have to rely on authority, you get people to want to do the things that you need them to do.

Till next time, 

Kunal Chopra