Agile Leadership with the Leadership Agility Compass

Lately, I’ve been reading Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change by William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs. It’s been an interesting read and has me thinking about my leadership style and where I need to improve.

However, just like any book you read, you’re only going to remember a portion of the material since there’s so much to digest. Enter the Leadership Agility Compass.

Leadership Agility Compass
Leadership Agility Compass

Like other useful infographics, it presents keywords as reminders of larger ideas within a familiar visual paradigm. Each cardinal point on the compass — Context-Setting Agility, Stakeholder Agility, Creative Agility, and Self-Leadership Agility — is further subdivided into smaller topics meant to clarify.

  • Creative Agility is your ability to balance your awareness of the current situation and your sense of purpose.
  • Stakeholder Agility is your ability to understand the vision and concerns of the stakeholder and how you react when those visions and concerns come into conflict with yours.
  • Creative Agility is your ability to compare and contrast different viewpoints and then act upon what you feel is the best course of action.
  • Self-Leadership Agility is your ability to introspect and how that introspection motivates you to further develop your skills.

Leadership = Internals + Externals

So when I really look and study the compass, I notice that the “northwest” hemisphere is all about self. It asks questions like:

  • Do you have a strong sense of purpose?
  • Are you are aware of the situation unfolding around you?
  • Are you motivated to improve yourself?
  • How self-aware are you?

I can’t help but look at these questions as the core of leadership. When I consider all of the strong leaders I have known, they all had a strong sense of self.

The opposite hemisphere — the “southeast” hemisphere — focuses on the external. Though I believe great leadership begins with self, leadership itself can’t exist unless others are involved. Therefore, understanding how well you understand those that have a stake in the situation, how you apply your power, how well you’re connected, and how you go about making important decisions are crucial. If you can answer these sorts of questions well, you have something to offer those around you.

Am I Right?

After carefully looking and analyzing the leadership compass, there is one question that, as a software developer, I’m dismayed is not there: Are you right? This is because leaders rely on technical experts to address technical questions. It’s the job of the leader to engage these technical experts to guide the team’s vision while avoiding supplanting them. This question of technical correctness, while important, is not the main focus of a leader.

And for someone who has built a career by focusing on being technically correct, it will certainly be challenging to refocus on other concerns.