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In His Own Words Agility as important as ability for business leaders

  • Published Thursday, July 3, 2014, at 7:18 a.m.


Leadership has much less to do with your ability than it does with your agility.

When we promote for ability, it’s tempting to focus on accomplishments, past success and performance in the current job.

Great workers get promoted to lead other workers. And many times this strategy leads to failure. It’s been called the Peter Principle, promoting people beyond their level of competence.

While helping our clients assess, hire and train effective leaders, we’ve discovered that agility is one of the biggest predictors of success in leadership.

What is agility? It is the ability to fluidly display each of these three skills interchangeably in any situation.


Transparency, candor, being in touch with one’s own needs, wants and boundaries, ability to create environments for different kinds of people to feel welcome and safe.

In short: attentiveness to your own, and others’ needs and wants.


Flexibility in problem-solving, thinking on your feet, making adjustments to the plan, building on different people’s strengths to accomplish shared goals, nurturing an open space for problem-solving and learning from failure.

In short: creative problem-solving.


Knowing and keeping your own boundaries, reinforcing the boundaries and goals of your job and work environment, persevering, showing courage and optimism, all without blaming or attacking others.

In short: stick-to-itiveness around the things that matter.

Each one of these skills is necessary, but not sufficient for great leadership. Imbalance leads to predictable problems.

Too much openness without resourcefulness or persistence results in a wonderfully safe and accepting leader who doesn’t achieve results.

Too much resourcefulness without persistence or openness results in endless analysis and data-collection, no follow-through and engagement.

Too much persistence without openness or resourcefulness results in a rigid and authoritarian leader who is out of touch with her people and can’t change a losing game plan.

Agile leaders develop openness, resourcefulness and persistence – and the skill to balance and deploy them fluidly in any situation.

Want to be an agile leader? Get down with O-R-P!

Nate Regier, Ph.D., is a founding owner of Next Element Consulting, a leadership development and communication training firm in Newton. He is co-author of “Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires.” Reach Regier at nate@next-element.com or 316-772-6174.

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