Agile Leaders Thrive in Uncertainty

Successful leaders learned to not just survive, but thrive, in the tumultuous business environment that the COVID pandemic created.

The ability to look ahead, anticipate potential trends, their impacts and to then create competitive strategies is known as strategic agility. Leaders with this ability have been stand-out performers in the past few years.

Leadership teams with strategic agility help their companies and people to optimise opportunities and ideas, instead of creating internal competition or trying to control outcomes.  As an approach, strategic agility understands the important of people in the success of an organisation. This, in turn, leads to positive engagement and increased productivity. It improves efficiency and quality, boosts capacity, lowers costs and increases profits.

Let’s put that into the context of the current business environment where COVID recovery continues, geopolitical pressures are making fuel, food, and raw materials more expensive and it’s hard to find skilled staff. New challenges arise on an almost daily basis. The ability to adapt to change could be considered a base expectation for leaders now.

Don’t just take my word for it. PwC surveyed 1,150 CEOs and more than three-quarters said their ability to adapt to change would be a ‘key source of competitive advantage’ in the future. McKinsey also examined the issue and found 9 out of 10 executives said organisational agility would be critical to their business success today and that would only grow in importance over time. Link to:

So how can leaders help organisations develop strategic ability? As leaders, we must recognise it’s a legitimate part of the job and be prepared to invest the time and effort into becoming skilled in it – just like anything else in our professional toolkit. And we can’t underestimate the value we bring to our employees of leading by example. When we consistently demonstrate strategic agility – and succeed in our roles – others will learn and follow.

1. Growth mindset. This is a critical skill for all leaders. It means you thrive on challenge and are open to learning new things.

2. Fast decision-making and supporting governance. Even in large, complex organisations, it’s possible to move quickly if you know how.

3. Cognitive bias. This is a subconscious pattern of thinking that processes information based on your personal experience and preferences. Leaders who aren’t aware of their own cognitive biases risk ‘getting stuck’.

4. Politics. People are political creatures and knowing how to form productive relationships with colleagues is an essential skill.

5. Diversity of thought, including emotional intelligence and psychological safety. We all know there’s more than one way to think about a challenge, a person, or a team. Recognising our own thought processes and knowing how to create a working environment where team members a safe to speak openly will accelerate the strategic agility of your team.

Let’s talk about how I can help develop your strategic agility.

I’ll be taking a deep dive into each of these five capabilities in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I can recommend the following activities to get started on your strategic agility today.

  • Task yourself to consider sources outside your sphere of knowledge and that will challenge and expand your thinking. Consume a variety of business titles. There are some great sources on new trends and ideas which will help expand your mind to new and different ways of working. I’ve included some of my favourites at the end of this article. Inspiration comes from unexpected sources and is sparked by thinking broadly, sometimes laterally, not with a narrow focus.
  • Be pragmatic. A good outcome is often better than a perfect one. Consider the balance of returns against costs and remember the best outcome is one for the greater good of the organisation.
  • Maintain your belief in humans. Very few people go to work to torment their colleagues. Everyone is trying their best to achieve a good outcome, just like you. Remember: there’s always more than one way to get there!
My list of learning resources to get you started

I’m constantly searching for new perspectives on business. Here’s a list of sources which keep me informed and provide inspiration to discover new sources.  Links are included if you want to check them out.


Podcasts are a great way to consume information because I can listen while I’m doing other activities. A short list from a very long list I have on the go at any one time:

Built for Change

Technology, business, and people transformation from Accenture


A philosophical take on everyday issues

Saturday Extra with Geraldine Doogue

A wide range of topical issues, from politics and society to culture. On podcast and Radio National/ABC Listen App

After Hours

Discussion about business and culture through the lens of current events from the TED Audio Collective


Keeping across emerging global trends and thought-leadership is important.

McKinsey Insights
Harvard Business Review
AICD (Australian Institute of Company Directors)

You don’t have to be a member to get access to current information on matters of interest to Board practise and Governance in an Australian context.

Other Resources

Keeping across emerging global trends and thought-leadership is important.

LinkedIn is a great source for this information, and I’d recommend following a wide range of people and organisations.

Set up daily alerts on topics of interest in your search engine and they will be delivered to your inbox. A great way to find new sources of information and research.

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