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21st Century Executive Leadership - Steps on the Journey to Adaptiveness & Consciousness

March 4, 2019

In this context .....

An executive is a person who owns the strategy or sets the direction of travel or sets justifications for spending. This exec could be the Product Owner for a chunk of the organization. Examples include someone at CxO level, someone reporting to a CEO, a chairwoman, or a board member for a large organization (>1000 people). An executive could also be a regional president or one of her reports for an overall 100,000 person + organization. It could also be a board member of a Fortune 500 organization, a government minister, or a chairwoman of a global non-profit organization. It could also be a leader within a division of a large firm, or within a small/medium sized firm. The main consideration is that the person has accountability for strategy and tactics.

21st century executive leadership
21st-century executive leadership


Agility is just a way to get to where you want to get to, it is not the objective in itself. And, agility is no longer just for IT. One does not become an executive for agility overnight. Growing sustainable agility can take years. Given that agility is only a means to an end, we need 21st-century executive leadership.

In the context of agility, a lot has been written about teams, coaching, training, scaling, and the organization. The executive has been left longing for real context on agility. recognizes this as an important problem.

Context is everything. At the same time, a “starter for ten” is useful. To support a journey to agility for executives, is developing a journey of workshops on the growth of sustainable organizational agility for an executive audience.

Note the emphasis on (organizational) agility and the de-emphasis on Agile; this is because neither Scrum nor Agile is the only answer. Did you hear the mic drop?

With a little help from some colleagues, here is my attempt at defining organizational agility  ...

The ability to drive disruption in the industry & the marketplace, an adaptive way of being/learning/sensemaking, through ↑effectiveness, ↑frequency-of-impact, ↑quality, ↑learning, ↓impediments, ↑flow, ↑efficiency, and ↑sustainability.

It looks like small cross-skilled cross-functional teams or teams-of-teams using Agile, Lean, Lean/Agile methods, or the Agile Manifesto principles.

It feels like, ↑psychological-safety, ↑engagement (employees, customers, partners and other stakeholders), ↑respect, ↑leaders-embracing-uncertainty, ↑leaders-serving-teams, ↑leaders-as-coaches, ↑excellence, ↑transparency, ↑inspection, ↑adaptation, ↑team-based-commitment, ↑openness, ↑inclusion, ↑courage, ↑passion, ↑focus, ↑energy, and ↑fun.

It is underpinned by the Agile Manifesto at

It’s a helpful way of being in this Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous world. It is a required skill set for the 21st century, regardless of speciality or function.


In this blog post series, I will outline five steps and "aha moments" on a typical executive journey for organizational agility for the organization's direction of travel, understanding at the same time that there isn't any such thing as a typical journey.

the 5 steps so far

It is understood that the organization has constraints, e.g., not running out of cash, outcomes that need to be true to allow continued spend. If we take a bunch of bets and none of them is working out, there are consequences. The organization has to continue to operate as it changes.

We are learning, we haven't got all of the answers, and with your help (input from all communities welcome), we'll get there together. I look forward to introducing the steps, some associated stories, and credits for contributors to the ideas/content.

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