As leaders rise to higher levels within an organization, they are required to navigate increasingly complex and chaotic situations. There are hand-offs and trade-offs with stakeholders and constituents. There are executive leaders to please and junior leaders to lead. Fellow peers with competing agendas from other functions such as Sales, Engineering, and Finance, vie for the same set of limited resources. And, decisions become more and more consequential to the organization. 

Dealing with this complexity requires senior leaders to attain a new level of interpersonal agility that wasn’t required when they were simply “leaders of others.” With a function of the business at stake or a leadership team looking for direction, interpersonal agility has to be a priority in a senior leader’s ongoing learning and development. 

So, you say, what is interpersonal agility? This is a topic I’ll address over the next several blog posts in the coming weeks. 

For starters – interpersonal agility is the ability to maintain composure in the face of these complex and chaotic interactions. It’s a continual process of self-observation, reflection, and choice. 

  • Self-observation is the ability to view one’s behaviors as others perceive them. 
  • Reflection is the ability to assess how those behaviors might impact others. 
  • Choice is the ability to select behaviors that will have a positive impact on the outcome of any given interaction.

Most leaders are able to do this after-the-fact. For example, they can look back on their behaviors in a weekly staff meeting, assess how they did, and create a plan to do something different in a future meeting. The best leaders, however, iterate through this process in the moment. They are able to self-observe, reflect, and choose behaviors real-time.  As a result, they maintain composure, keep communication flowing, and bring out the best in themselves and others. 

How would you describe your level of interpersonal agility? 

Stay tuned for more tips and tools in future posts where we’ll dive deeper into the topic.

Leadership, agility, senior leadership agility, leadership development

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