Agile leadership inspires transformation

Agile leadership is important to bring the best out of staff, to accommodate stakeholders’ views, and to enhance customer experience for the success of an organisation.

This was expressed by Jonathan Yap, Executive Director, Group Internal Audit, DBS Bank, Singapore during a public talk organised by WOU’s School of Business & Administration at the main campus today. About 60 people attended, including Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye and WOU Sdn Bhd Chairman Dato’ Seri Stephen Yeap.

Part of the crowd at the talk.

Part of the crowd at the talk.

Yap spoke on changing industry landscape and the growth of non-financial services like Facebook, Uber, Alibaba and Airbnb which are innovatively expanding and enriching customer experience. “Leadership agility is about being nimble, proactive, accountable, able to adapt to changes, and to make things happen. The ability to be agile fundamentally is also linked to emotional intelligence (EQ), which enables you to understand people and react or adapt to their thinking.” 

He listed four components of Leadership Agility namely self-leadership agility; stakeholder agility; creative agility; and context-setting agility.

He said self-leadership agility is the ability to secure, solicit and use wisely the feedbacks given. “You need to act on the feedbacks generated. If you have a staff leaving your workplace, in order to improve the situation you need to understand why he/she is leaving. Often times you have exit interviews, but no actions taken after that.”

Yap expounds on agile leadership.

Yap expounds on agile leadership.

He stated that stakeholder agility requires building connectivity with stakeholders in the external environment, such as suppliers and distributors. “Stakeholder alignment is important. Their objectives and thought process are going to be different from yours. But to be agile, you need to absorb their views, priorities and objectives and respond accordingly.”

Creative agility, Yap remarked, is the ability to be creative as individuals, to ask lots of questions. He warned of dictator leadership that tends to instil fear, causing individuals to clam up to avoid getting into trouble. “Even though you think you are right, you will become wrong psychologically. You feel you can’t challenge your superiors, so you pull back, become quiet.” He said an insightful and creative leader questions underlying assumptions and is focused on strategic outcomes.

Prof Madhulika Kaushik (seated, foreground, in sari) expresses her views.

Prof Madhulika Kaushik (seated, foreground, in sari) expresses her views.

In the ensuing discussion on why bosses scream and shout, WOU Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof Madhulika Kaushik commented, “When you shout, you lose your cool and it shows loss of control. If you want people to contribute, then don’t create a gap between them and you but bring them all together.”

Regarding context-setting agility, Yap explained that it is the ability to focus on the vast number of happenings around us, and then making sure that you have the opportunity to push your ideas, with full awareness and a sense of purpose”. He clarified, “If you sell, you need good marketing skills.  If you create a product, you must be able to diversify it to reach out to more consumers.”

Prof Ho (centre) presents a token of appreciation to Yp.

Prof Ho (centre) presents a token of appreciation to Yp.

He said bureaucracy can hinder agility, especially when an approval process takes months. “If you want to get things done properly, cut down the bureaucracy, cut down your approval process, make it agile. Don’t let it hinder the decision-making process.”

He concluded: “Go make a difference. Agility is ultimately about adding value to yourself, value to your organisation and value to your community.”