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Agile Leadership Development

Everything changes and nothing stands still. Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC475 BC)
Highly demanding leadership

What does this statement mean when change reaches dimensions that for many can become too fast, too complex, too multilayered... and what is the consequence of this quote under these conditions?

In times of change due to digitalization, globalization, acquisitions of companies, re-organizations, political or health influences which challenge collaboration, and a global complexity can be found in many things, the uncertainty among people how the future will develop is growing.


More than ever, leaders must embrace this uncertainty and convey confidence through safety.

Leaders and managers can influence change and the associated uncertainty in different ways. They have a rather small influence on the causal elements. However, they can achieve a major influence on how they deal with change by developing their competencies in it. This goes far beyond change management and means that leaders and managers achieve greater confidence in their thinking and acting. Leaders and managers can convey safety if they master the tools, methods and ways of thinking that ensure stability and thus success in the VUCA world!

VUCA with four pictures that explain each part

Agility is the answer to the question of how successful acting is possible in the VUCA world. In this context, it is of central importance that the responsiveness of leaders and managers to ever faster changing markets and customer requirements is improved.

Consequences for everyone and everything

It is not only leaders and managers who have to rethink and question existing leadership competencies. Those responsible for leadership development must also consider whether the topics, content, tools, methods, skills, etc. that are being taught still meet current requirements.

Are their trainings or programs suitable to meet future requirements? If so, does are thoughts we need to keep in mind:

  • Does it make sense to counter a volatile workplace with firmly defined content as part of management development?

  • What skills, abilities and competencies do leaders and managers need in order to successfully meet the permanently changing challenges?

  • Are the static vessels that roll out neatly ordered and organized leadership development interventions in a watering can fashion, whether conducted on-site or virtually (still) the means to success?

Separate development approaches

A paradigm shift to solve a paradox

Executives are not only supervisors, but also act as digital, agile, transformational, transactional leaders, managers, coaches, mentors... all in one person - a "jack-of-all-trades"!

Some elementary requirements for managers:

  • Interconnected (networked) thinking in a complex and complicated world.

  • Skilled and intuitive use of digital elements

  • Conscious and increased use of soft skills, e.g., in remote leadership (e.g., home office)

  • Quick comprehension and analytical skills to be able to quickly respond to changing events.

  • Short decision cycles, which involve smaller actions and include a trial and error.

  • Foresight to align decisions and actions with the vision.

  • Allowing employees, the autonomy and authority to act, so that they can express their commitment and creativity.


The demands placed on executives and their skills have inevitably changed. Organizations and thus those responsible for leadership development should definitely take these demands and changes into account when developing leadership development trainings or programs.

Agile leadership development for today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow

Most leaders and managers are faced with the most diverse challenges they have experienced to date. Organizations are challenged to adapt to the complex changes in the workplace with its dynamic market situations and to align all developments with them.

When the world calls for agile leaders, one cannot help but wonder if training or programs that are not designed, built, and delivered based on agile methodologies can deliver on the promise of developing agile leaders.

Major challenges in leadership development

Central elements to establishing agile leadership development

  • Leadership development is an ongoing development process, similar to what can be observed in sports. Athletes continue to train, even if they are the best in the world.

  • Agility does not mean acting independently of any framework conditions. This understanding is essential, e.g., when managers delegate authority and autonomy to their employees. There is a jointly defined framework. The same applies to agile leadership development trainings and programs. These need an agile structure that can be adapted. Agile does not mean throwing stable processes and efficiency overboard, just as each organization, department and team needs its own form of agility. One size fits all is not the idea of agility.

  • Growing trainings and programs that flexibly incorporate new aspects and transfer outdated learning content into other vessels.

  • Knowledge should be shared, and abilities based on skills should come to direct application, so that the development of competencies is an integral part of the interventions.

  • The application must be an integral part of the training or programs in which the environment is clearly integrated.

  • The development aspects should consider a good balance between leading employees and managing the business.

  • In addition to learning skills, tools, and methods, leaders and managers should combine what they learned with their knowledge by means of their skills in order to develop competencies. Moreover, mental models, intuition, learning from mistakes, etc. must be an integral part of these development interventions.

  • Perseverance and time are required! Learning is to assimilate things with existing patterns of thoughts and actions (incl. mental models). Learning therefore means assimilating new information based on previous experience and knowledge (incl. prejudices). Changing the logic of thinking and acting has the consequence that leaders and managers have to question unconscious basic assumptions.

  • The struggle with self-image and self-perception is the basis of any change. Leaving the familiar learning environment is the first and central step towards an agile way of thinking and acting.

  • Hybrid forms of learning in which leaders and managers can learn regardless of location and time are just as important as face-to-face meetings.

  • Definition of the essential competencies that are expected from the leaders and managers. These competency maps are agile and are reviewed and adapted iteratively. The competence requirements are recorded dynamically and serve as a basis for the development and use of standardized and thus quickly available frameworks such as processes and learning media.


For more information, please contact us.

We will be happy to provide you with our detailed brochure on how to successfully design, build and deliver agile leadership development.

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