Turbulent Waters Call for Agile Leadership


Ships on the high seas regularly encounter uncontrollable and unpredictable forces such as storms, yet they weather through them and continue on their journey. Undoubtedly, their success is the result of a team led by a Captain who understands Agile Leadership rather than the result of one individual. 

The Captain promotes teamwork, demonstrates trust, empowers, and builds systems and processes to anticipate challenges. The crew pivots quickly when they see a need or obstacle and respond to it. The 2nd Officer plots the course and is responsible for locating and navigating around storms and other potential dangers. The Helmsman steers the ship and has the freedom to make decisions like turning the boat towards an oncoming wave if they do encounter trouble. Waves can be volatile and uncertain, but the agility demonstrated by the crew at times like this prevent disaster. 

A popular acronym “VUCA” is used to describe times in which agility is most needed. Times that are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (much like a storm at sea). Big waves cause the boat to rock and people can become seasick. The ship may get pushed off course, and it may be difficult to see a clear way forward. Agility is about thriving despite the storm, rather than just surviving it.  

Here are four suggestions to help you navigate stormy seas and sail through to calmer waters.

1. Conquer Volatility With Vision

Rather than resisting change in your work environment, focus on creating team objectives and values. Develop a clear shared vision for your destination and set goals.

2. Link Uncertainty With Understanding

Take time to listen carefully and observe your surroundings. Stay current on trends and technologies that could impact your work and evaluate your performance regularly.

3. Respond to Complexity With Communication

Clearly expressed communications are especially important in complex situations. It’s possible to over communicate, yet we dare you to try. “Less is more” really doesn’t apply here. In a fast-paced, unpredictable environment, collaboration with the team is key.

4. Battle Ambiguity With Agility

Be prepared to change course as events unfold. Develop and promote people who can think fast on their feet and are comfortable with change. Reward your crew members who demonstrate agility by highlighting their achievements and innovations. This lets your people see what kind of behavior you value. 

On land or at sea, our work environments can be filled with uncontrollable and unpredictable forces, and rather than try to control them, why not take the helm of agility and chart a new course. Contact us today for stable, sure, simple and specific training for your crew.

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