Resilience and Agility: The New Critical Post Pandemic Leadership Strategies


If there is one lesson that organizations have learned through the pandemic, it’s that their future survival is now heavily dependent upon the resilience they’ve put in place – and that resilience demands a new level of agility within their leadership team to respond to new levels of volatility!

Resilience? It’s the ability to bounce back from VUCA – what has become known as an unprecedented level of volatility, complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity. How important is it? Post-pandemic, it’s critical, because levels of VUCA have accelerated through the roof! I’ve gone so far as to suggest that organizations should now consider putting in place a “Chief Resilience Officer” – someone responsible for steering the organization through an unprecedented level of volatility, complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity.

What is agility? It’s the ability to shift mindsets and actions rapidly according to fast-moving circumstances. I’ve recently concluded a research project to take a look at the elements of agility and resilience and found this quote which outlines it perfectly.

Leadership agility—or the agility to shift and pivot mindsets—is the master competency needed for sustained success in our fast-paced and complex business environment. In practice, leadership agility is what gives leaders the ability to lead effectively when rapid change and uncertainty are the norm and when success requires consideration of multiple views and priorities.
Building Leadership Agility in Today’s Complex World, 13 December 2021
Fulton County Daily Report

Organizations that have an agile leadership team culture in place share several attributes – they:

  • accept the speed of change – with the pandemic everything changed quickly, from technology to consumer behavior, business models to time-to-market, methodologies to corporate structure
  • understand the nature of the shift – the post-Covid economy is not going to look anything like the pre-Covid economy
  • get the nuance involved in new forms of resilience – for example, we’ve gone from a lot of just-in-time to just-in-case business models
  • streamline their operations and eliminate roadblocks so that an organization can act at the speed required
  • accelerate decision making so that they are not bogged down by organizational sclerosis
  • have an effective trends radar that advises them as to what comes next – so they can better understand what to do about it!

Are organizations successful at agility? Not at all! According to Deloitte’s 2020 Chief Strategy Officer Survey on how often organizations refresh their core strategy:

  • 45% refresh their strategy annually or less frequently
  • 23% do it every two years
  • 22% every three years

In essence, most organizations are structured for slow in a world that has become crushingly fast. How are such strategies useful when we are living through an accelerating acceleration gap!

‘Forget everything you’ve ever learned about leadership – the number 1 leadership skill for the 21st century has beocme agility, with the primary focus being resilience.

To prepare for your future, you need to think about a future that is different from the existing one – and you need to challenge yourself on your leadership approach. Is this your style?

To survive and thrive, leaders utilize multiple mindsets during the day to solve the complex problems of their businesses and organization. While drinking their morning coffee, they may be preventing and tackling problems and getting things done by relying on their knowledge and expertise. By lunchtime, they may have shifted to directing teams to achieve outcomes and very specific deliverables. If they can pull up from the work and problem-solving, they may be able to grab a moment to think about the future and what comes next.

Building Leadership Agility in Today’s Complex World, 13 December 2021
Fulton County Daily Report

You really need to shift the structure of your day. Most leaders don’t have an adequate foundation in agility – their key expertise involves rallying a team around specific goals – and if they don’t know what those new goals are, or the goals keep shifting, they aren’t operating within their wheelhouse. They spend too little time on the trends that might impact next.

What do you need to achieve resilience? Succesful, agile organizations move faster – decisions, product development, time to market, and an attitude that future business survival now depends on that resilience.

  • strategic nimbleness to respond faster to fast-moving events
  • flexible policies that shift in real-time
  • real-time feedback loops that drive your (re)actions
  • the ability to avoid the distraction of clarity – because there really isn’t any
  • the ability to readjust goals to meet new realities
  • the ability to spot new opportunities amidst the volatility
  • a structure that can reorganize quickly – the formation of fast teams is critical
  • a culture that embraces speed of action as a key success factor
  • a mindset that cuts through organizational sclerosis
  • accelerated decision making
  • the ability to act in the presence of imperfect data
  • a focus that challenges process – quick runs, small orders
  • thinking long term as to how you structure for faster future change
  • a team that stops taking things for granted
  • a mindset that is relentless on redundancy – examining every point of weakness
  • enabling insight at every level
  • leaders that stop discounting the outliers
  • groups that challenge complacency
  • moving from actions based on ‘weeks and months to ‘days and hours’
  • accelerating scenario analysis – alternative futures are your future
  • accepting VUCA as a constant – and stop chasing ‘normal,  because there isn’t any
  • do more horizon scanning with an effective trends radar
  • challenging your peers more
  • presuming a complex trajectory for what comes next.
  • stopping with the insufficient investment
  • presuming that you move slower than everyone else – and fixing it
  • regular identifying vulnerabilities and weak spots=

Agility and resilience? It also involves evolving your strategy faster – long gone are the days of the 2, 3, or even 5-year plan.

Agility and resilience mean that you must now have in place a flexible, rolling, evolving strategy. There is no time to strategize at a slow speed when the world is fast!

What do you do about it? Focus on resilience and agility. I’ve been on stage speaking about this goal for well over 15 years – here’s a little bit of insight!


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.