What is agility really all about?

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

In my current role, I was offered the possibility to attend a 2h30 introduction to creative leadership and agile mindset.  I reluctantly signed up thinking well let’s do this; I will maybe learn something new.

I can tell you I was pleased to have taken the opportunity as this opened the door on what agile transformation is really all about. I am saddened that the only message I have heard to date was the fact that agility is all about speed, sustainability and flexibility. That is not the whole picture. It is but the tip of the iceberg. The rest is far more transformational, dare I say disruptive and I believe essential. It is about a possibility to go towards what is being branded as creative leadership, and this is exciting. This creative leadership is the essence of the agile movement we are in the midst of. It is fundamentally about a behaviour shift towards being more vulnerable, authentic and living up to our human values

We are told that the reason for the need to change is the changing environment and I can get on board with that. So, what do we know, what changes are we going through?

Thinking back in history, the industrial revolution was all about machines taking over manpower, shifting the focus of human work on brain power. Machines are stronger than humans will ever be from a sheer force and strength perspective. At the time, our differentiator was our brain power. Development was focused on our brains with Rene Descartes beautifully illustrating this through his famous quote ‘Je pense donc je suis’.

The change we are going through now is being branded ‘the AI revolution’. This revolution will see the shift for humans from brainpower to ‘heart power’. AI and machine learning are developing an ability to learn and analyse, process information in a way that was only ever dreamt of in science fiction movies.

So what is our differentiating factor as humans now?

It is our humanity, our creativity and our emotional intelligence. In an industry like ours, this sounds scary and a bit esoteric. And this is where the beauty, yes I truly believe where the beauty of this whole transformational movement lies. It is opening up a possibility to move above the line to where authenticity, relationships, systems-awareness and most importantly, self-awareness lie.

What I am missing on the model is ‘vulnerability’. Vulnerability is the essence of our humanity and where our courage comes from; interesting that this has been a corporate value for as long as I can remember. Brene Brown writes that the Courage to be vulnerable is not about winning an losing; it’s about the courage to show up when you cannot predict or control the outcome. I believe this is what this change is about — allowing us to show up as humans with our vulnerability to courageously face what is coming to our way. This energises me and fills me with hope.

Another thing I missed and one that we discussed during our session is emotions. If we are to shift away from ‘brain power’ towards ‘heart power’ this involves a need to learn to deal with difficult emotions and accept that we humans are not just rational beings. We are first and foremost emotional beings. The behaviour shift that agility and ‘creative leadership’ are I believe bringing about is one about moving from reacting to situations and emotions towards responding to situations and emotions. Wordplay one may say, AND there is a critical difference between the two. Reacting happens from our ‘reptilian brain’, it is primal and impulsive. Responding occurs when we increase our self-awareness, our understanding of our selves, from our neocortex.

Interestingly the neocortex is also where our curiosity and learning abilities come from. Aristotle beautifully expresses the message I am aiming to convey ‘Anyone can be angry--that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way---that is not easy.’

I will leave you with Bene Brown’s definition of a courageous leader as that is what I strive towards and admire. ‘Anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and who has the courage to develop that potential.’


If you want to start or continue to develop your differentiating factor and be ready for the future; contact me for a free coaching session, just message me "agile".


PS: I have been asked ‘why the hummingbird?’ it represents speed, flexibility, sustainability AND vulnerability, grace and power.


“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

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