Businesses are changing right before our eyes as the digital transformation takes place around the world. And yet many dinosaur leaders, as I like to call them, are still in these businesses risking extinction if they can’t adapt to this ever-changing environment. It’s true that leaders must be willing to accept change in order to remain competitive. However, I believe it goes even further than that. Change-agile leaders must be forward-thinkers who believe that the future is important above all else. They must be able to change quickly and fluctuate as the business world changes – sometimes on the daily.
Think about the change-agile leaders in your life. How many of them have common, identifiable behavior traits? I’m guessing all of them if you really think about it. In my experience, I’ve identified five common traits that leaders everywhere should strive to possess if they want their organizations to not just change but thrive in change. Let’s take a look at what will make the difference.
Change-Agile Leaders Have Clear Purpose
Simply changing to be change isn’t a clear enough purpose, especially when leading a business. Humans are naturally resistant to change, and reason isn’t a large enough driving force. We need purpose to be able to make changes in any area of our lives.
Leaders who have the ability to answer the question “why” are more apt to bring their businesses along. We’re not adding new technology just to say we have new technology. We are adding technology to remain competitive, create a more productive workforce and push us towards innovation. See what I did there? It’s all in the why.
It can be tempting as a leader to get wrapped up in the day to day grind of running a business. You may even expect your trusted advisors or board of directors to make futuristic decisions for you. However, successful leaders are known to think ahead, always searching for opportunity.
Change-agile Leaders should look beyond today, tomorrow and even this year. The easiest way to do this is to infuse opportunity within your day, every day. Ask questions. Give your employees an open place to innovate and experiment. Praise those who succeed, even yourself. Praise those who fail and learn from the failure—these are the risk-takers your organization needs, but more on that in a moment. Organizations and leaders can’t settle for ordinary anymore.
They Fix What’s Broken
We all know the saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what about if something is working, but not to its fullest potential? I’ve seen countless businesses with systems in place that work on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper you see that there are actually issues. Change-agile leaders not only fix what’s broken, they seek out what isn’t quite right, even before they know. During the digital transformation, there will be times when tough conversations will need to happen. As a leader, you will need to discuss problem areas with your team, make some tough decisions and drive your team towards collaboration.
Things may break when new tech is implemented, or processes are altered. You should have an open-door policy of communication for concerns. This is the first step in being open and honest about what may be holding your business back.
Risk-Takers and Experimenters
Where would we be without the innovation of technology companies all over the world? Certainly not in this place of transformation. Take a second to think about how you handle opportunity that comes with risk. When faced with risk, do you ask why and move as far away as possible? Or do you ask why not and take the plunge?
Both can be detrimental to your business unless viewed in the correct way. Change-agile leaders are risk-takers and experimenters who establish opportunity for experimentation and innovation. If you make moves to prepare for the risk, you can take the risk even when you expect to fail. Any innovator will tell you that out of failure comes success.
They Strive for Partnership
To be a leader during this time, you shouldn’t be all about what you can do on your own. As technology improves and processes become complex, it is going to take collaborations from all over your business to be successful. This means your entire business must be ready to partner in the ultimate goal. An agile leader isn’t afraid of this partnership but embraces it head-on.
This transformation will also allow businesses to streamline their processes such as marketing and sales across the board, making entire businesses well-oiled machines. These machines are built to innovate, a giant think tank of efficiency. But, without partnership and true collaboration, your competitiveness will suffer.
When it comes down to it, change agility can be boiled down to three key goals including being committed to the customer, to have a strong focus on continuous improvement and the desire to inspire teams during massive change.
Possessing these five traits is no easy feat. It will take work—hard work—to truly implement a change. But the change-agile leaders that master these traits will be head and shoulders above the competition. Wouldn’t you rather be led by someone who can take your company into the future? I know I would.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.
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