Agility – the new talent ‘X’ factor?

Agility – the new talent ‘X’ factor?

Organisations are becoming increasingly complex, characterised by greater sophistication, uncertainty and rapidly changing business environments. They must be able to effectively react to challenges and to exploit new opportunities. Business Agility is the ability of an organisation to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways.

Pie chart Business Agility is the ability of an organisation to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways.

But how does this affect the qualities required of leaders?

One important factor is that key people also need to be ‘agile’. According to research by Dai, De Meuse & Hallenbeck, the difference between successful, high-achieving people and those whose careers falter is ‘their ability to distil meaning from experience’ – to learn from experience and effectively apply that learning to new and unfamiliar situations. Their research shows that individuals high in ‘Learning Agility’ excel in four key areas:

Mental Agility: They are excellent critical thinkers who are comfortable with complexity, examine problems carefully, and make fresh connections, helping them to more easily identify opportunities.

People Agility: They know themselves very well and can readily deal with a wide variety of people and tough situations, helping to manage and motivate them to deliver exceptional results.

Change Agility: They are curious and like to experiment; they can effectively deal with (and often enjoy) the discomfort of change.

Results Agility: They deliver results in first-time situations by inspiring teams; they exhibit the sort of presence that builds confidence in themselves and others. They push the envelope, but are also prepared to take responsibility when things fail.

Individuals with high Learning Agility can make a real difference to any organisation they are part of. But how can you test for, or develop, Learning Agility? What are the key traits that such people display?

Certain traits can make these individuals easier to identify. Their inherent curiosity will encourage them to seek new challenges, in new sectors, where they can bring their skills and experience to bear. They should be good listeners to enable them to learn effectively from others, and perceptive in their thought process. There needs to be a balance between being assured in their decision making, to help inspire confidence, along with a high degree of self-awareness, as too much ego is likely to be counter-productive. They may be impatient and may not have stayed in the same organisation for too long, unless they have been continually challenged and given the autonomy and authority to make a difference.

“We believe in working with extraordinary people,” adds Tim Kemp.

“We specialise in finding and nurturing leaders who not only have the necessary skills, experience and capability to deliver in roles, but look for those special individuals who can transform businesses from being merely good to being great.”

Posted by Tim Kemp on

Tim Kemp

Tim Kemp


Tim is a member of our Industrial Practice. He has a depth of experience across a broad range of sectors including, B2B services, technology, energy, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. In addition to placing candidates in senior executive and Board roles within UK and international market leaders, Tim also has an impressive track record partnering with high-growth SMEs, PE backed and family businesses.