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How to use the Leadership Agility Compass

The Leadership Agility Compass is a graphic tool developed by ChangeWise that emerged from the 5 years of intensive research and writing underlying the book, Leadership Agility.  When you know how to use it, it’s a tool that can make any leadership initiative you undertake more effective. If you're a leadership coach, you can use it to help your clients become more effective.

Our research on Leadership Agility found that the most successful leaders we studied invest time and attention in four key “territories.”  This applies, regardless of whether an initiative involves leading organizational change, improving team performance, or engaging in pivotal conversations.

The four interrelated territories that are integral to any of these initiatives are:

  • The larger systemic context surrounding a leadership initiative.
  • The initiative’s key stakeholders.
  • The specific problems and opportunities the initiative must address to be successful.
  • Yourself as a leader.

Each point on the Leadership Agility Compass focuses on one of these territories. Together the four Compass points serve as a reminder to attend fully to all four territories. The Compass points themselves represent the four types of leadership agility needed in each of these territories.  The underlying dynamic of agility is the same for all four types:  You step back mentally from what you’re focused on, gain a wider and deeper perspective, and then put the key insights from this wider view into action. Here's how a leader can use the four points on the Compass:

  • Context-setting agility: Think of a specific real-life initiative you are planning or are already undertaking. Focus your mind on the doing of this initiative. Now, step back and let the larger strategic context of your initiative come into view.  As you scan this larger environment, you recognize and anticipate changing circumstances, you decide which initiatives are most worth your time and effort – and why, and you clarify the outcomes you want each initiative to achieve.
  • Stakeholder agility: Now, when you step back from focusing on your initiative, bring to mind its key stakeholders. These are the people and groups who will be impacted by your initiative and whose support you need for it to be successful. As you step back and survey this territory, you can identify your stakeholders, then put yourself in their shoes: How do they view and feel about your initiative? To what extent are they aligned with what you want to do? To the extent that you are not aligned, how can you engage with them in ways that might lead to more optimal alignment?
  • Creative agility: Another territory is made up of the specific issues your initiative needs to address. Creative agility starts with stepping back and identifying what these key issues are and how they are related. It also involves diagnosing the underlying root causes of these issues and developing creative solutions. Why creative solutions? Due to the nature of today’s turbulent business environment, the problems that need to be addressed tend to be novel and non-routine and cross organizational boundaries. Research has shown what you already probably know: The best solutions to these “ill-structured” problems come when we engage our capacity for creative thinking.
  • Self-leadership agility: The fourth territory is, frankly, the most frequently overlooked. There is a saying: “Wherever you go, there you are.” You yourself are at the heart of everything you do as a leader. You activate your self-leadership agility when – before, during, and after any initiative you lead – you step back and reflect on your own leadership. Stepping back repeatedly in this way allows you to accelerate your own leadership development by clarifying your strengths and areas where you want to improve, proactively finding opportunities to stretch and grow as a leader, then reflect on your experiences as you continue to experiment toward higher levels of effectiveness.

Try it out and see what happens.

The Leadership Agility Compass is at the heart of the innovative Leadership Agility 360 feedback instrument and the Leadership Agility Accelerator. It is also at the core of our Leadership Agility Coaching Certification, as well as the Leadership Agility Change Lab, where leaders simultaneously advance their own change projects while increasing their agility as leaders.

If you'd like to learn more about leadership coaching that makes use of the Leadership Agility Compass, or if you're an Agile or leadership coach who'd like to learn more about our certification programs for coaches, contact us for a conversation.


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