Leadership Agility ‘Compass’

In last month’s article, I introduced you to Leadership Agility by Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs – described as “the master competency needed for sustained success in today’s complex, fast-paced business environment”. If you missed it, you can read it here.

This month, you can learn more about the leadership agility ‘compass’. This diagram shows the competencies and capacities that leaders need in order to be successful, especially in the current turbulent environment.

I hope you find this information useful.

How does the leadership agility ‘compass’ impact my role?

Leadership agility = the ability to take wise and effective action amid complex, rapidly changing conditions.

Many leadership development programmes are ‘outside in’ – they give you rational tools and techniques. I particularly like this model because it’s ‘inside out’ as well – it focuses on who you are as a person too, and how this impacts your leadership agility. Your ability to draw on both mental and emotional insights are key to your leadership effectiveness. The leadership agility compass below shows how.


The north-south axis of the compass is about mental and cognitive agilities while the west-east axis is about emotional and relationship agilities.

The outer circle represents four competencies that every successful leader exhibits, as defined in the Leadership Agility book:

1. Context-setting agility
Improves your ability to scan your environment, frame the initiatives you need to take and clarify the outcomes you need to achieve.

This involves you taking a step back, connecting with the wider organisation and then using this insight to determine the most important initiatives you should focus on – a bit like a camera lens zooming out and then back in again.

2. Stakeholder agility
Increases your ability to engage with key stakeholders in ways that build support for your initiative.

This covers the ability to ‘stand in someone else’s shoes’, to really understand their needs and align them with yours. It’s not a win:lose or lose:win approach where one party is assertive and the other is accommodating. Instead, you can step out of that mindset and reach an outcome that suits everybody.

3. Creative agility
Enables you to transform the problems you encounter into the results you need.

This means you can hold different ideas and experiences in your mind, and make meaningful connections between them. By seeing how things are related, even if they appear to be opposites, you can find opportunities and real innovation. When combined with the ability to challenge your assumptions, you will be more open and able to transform complex problems to win:win solutions.

4. Self-leadership agility
Enables you to use your initiatives as opportunities to develop into the kind of leader you want to be.

This is your own ability to take time to reflect and learn. Not just after the event, but ultimately, to detach yourself ‘in the moment’, being aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in order to adapt your style accordingly. Not all leaders take the time to self-reflect, but if you do, it will have a big impact on your performance and potential to grow. In addition, when you feel you are living up to your image of the leader you want to be, or making progress towards this, your self-esteem typically increases.

The middle circle represents the capacities that make each competency possible.

  • How would you define your own level of leadership agility in these areas?
  • Given your role, where does the organisation need you to be?
  • What steps will you take to build on your strengths and work on your development areas?

It is possible to develop your skill in these areas so you become a more agile leader. Reflecting, deciding your outcome, acting and then reflecting is the best way to develop your leadership agility. It works!

I am one of only a few people in Europe who have been trained in this leading-edge model. I would be happy to visit and explain this approach to you, or to present a keynote showing how leadership agility might be useful to you and your team. Please email me for further details.

In next month’s article, I welcome a guest contributor on the topic of innovation – implementing new ideas to create value.

Did you know…

  • The best innovation occurs at interfaces where individuals with different backgrounds and expertise come together. They challenge assumptions, frame the challenge in an open, enquiring and positive way, and take the initiative.
  • 30% of how employees behave and perform at work is due to the individual; 70% is determined by the environment.
  • A company of ordinary people with a great environment will outperform a company with great people in an ordinary environment. The job of a leader is to create the right environment.

I’d love to know what you think about this. Please contact me anytime if you have content to share or would like me to cover a particular subject. I look forward to hearing from you.