The definition of agility is “the power of moving quickly and easily; nimbleness; or the ability to think and draw conclusions quickly; intellectual acuity ”1. Having agility is often associated with physical movements such as dance, sports, or working out, and having it is frequently highlighted as a great asset. As the second piece of the definition indicates, agility also relates to your “mental movement” – the way you intellectually process information and react. Mental agility is just as valuable an asset as physical agility, and flexing it is just as important.
Every business faces disruption. Sometimes the business is initiating the disruption (e.g., a new product, process, service, or acquisition), and sometimes it is being disrupted (e.g., intense or new competition, market challenges, or being acquired). In addition, both occur within a rapidly changing environment that can add layers of uncertainty and unexpected circumstances. When faced with change and particularly the unknown, leaders often retreat to their proven methods, existing skills, best practices, and known paths based on past experience to remove ambiguity, add certainty, and simplify the approach. However, in these times, having strong inner agility can actually help a leader embrace complexity and navigate uncertainty to achieve more effective results.
Having strong inner agility means you can read and react to situations, but you have enough self-awareness to know that “reading a situation” requires context and perspective beyond your own point of view. It means practicing the following: not pressing but pausing (i.e., “becoming more still”) for effective action, withholding judgment, challenging your own assumptions or others, being open to new paths or ideas, asking deep questions, listening completely with an open mind, reframing for exploration, and providing direction but allowing for flexibility and creativity in an approach. In addition, it might mean initially leaning into the complexity of a situation to learn and become more complex in our own thinking rather than trying to add certainty or simplify it.
The future of work requires new ways of thinking and inner agility. As you navigate change and disruption, regardless of your role, consider how “agile” your mental muscles are and how often you are truly flexing your inner agility in creating the path forward.