The question I am asked most by aspiring leaders is which skill is the most important to develop. The answer, without a doubt, is agility.
We are in an age where a multi-generational workforce has vastly different backgrounds, and at a time when people are working and living longer than ever before. People in their 70s with decades of experience are working with Gen Z university graduates, who have grown up using technology before they can walk or talk and have been encouraged to work collaboratively throughout their education.
Coupled with this we have a startingly fast pace of change in technology and with it a constantly changing business, social and cultural landscape. A leader who excels in one area – strength in negotiating, or an expert in finance – will not have the skills required to lead an organisation to success. They must be chameleons. They must be not only able to adapt to change, but to recognise it before it happens and ensure that their workforce has the training and skills required to adapt.
Stephen Hawking said, “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” This has never been more true for leaders, who must not only possess brilliant business brains, but a very high level of emotional intelligence. Agility also means the ability to recognise and respect cultural differences and ensure that global teams are able to work collaboratively. There is no room for dinosaurs with outdated views who are resistant to change.
Leaders must be agile enough to inspire a diverse range of multi-generational people, equip them with the skills and tools they need to adapt to new technology and ensure they are culturally and socially aware. Above all, they must lead by example, and this means being agile enough to develop themselves.