Reframing business leadership in today’s era

Reframing business leadership in today’s era

Leaders must honestly evaluate their skills and ask if they are suited to new challenges

Do you think the leaders in your business or workplace truly have leadership qualities? This may be a strange question for some. Leaders and leadership are the same thing; otherwise, these people wouldn’t have risen to their roles — right?

The reality is that these two terms mean different things, and those differences could be the reason that  work and business comes to a standstill. While a leader is a role and a position given to a person, leadership is a set of capabilities. Not all leaders have leadership capabilities and those with leadership capabilities aren’t all leaders.

This does not mean we are undermining leaders and their qualifications. The reason they’re in the role is due to their experience and skills. However, according to a white paper from the Center for Creative Leadership, 26% of first-time managers felt unprepared to lead when given the role while 20% were doing a poor job of leading, according to their subordinates.

These problems could have arisen because they lacked the necessary training prior to starting the role, or their leadership skills and capabilities were not strong enough to begin with. These capabilities include teamwork, negotiation skills, and the ability to motivate a team. When they are lacking, it affects the overall performance of the organisation.

Today, inadequate leadership can have a particularly serious impact on organisations, given the acceleration of change and greater ambiguity. We cannot look at the roles of leaders and leadership capabilities in the same way as we did even a year ago. For example, business leaders are used to preparing and following business plans and strategies for a year or so. But the experience of the pandemic has taught us, if we didn’t realise it already, that we can no longer be rigid.

In the same way, the way we approach leadership cannot be the same as it used to be. It is not a role but a set of capabilities to develop to effectively lead people toward sustained success in the future. We may need to reframe business leadership and how we approach it.

This is where agile leadership and outward leadership come in. When the situation is uncertain, leaders and their leadership capabilities are required to have an outward mindset and push for agile approaches.

Agile leadership is defined as qualities and skills exhibited by people who are agile themselves and thus inspire team and organisational agility. Agility in this sense means focusing on adapting and executing to change with speed. As previously mentioned, plans and strategies cannot be rigid and need to be more open-ended.

Self-agility can be developed, but agile leadership requires constant practice and the willingness to fail and learn. All this, while leading and inspiring your team to do the same, can be difficult to balance.

The goal of agile leadership is to be able to adapt the strategy and guide the team quickly, executing actions to match current conditions.

Outward leadership, a concept developed by The Arbinger Institute, encompasses the concept of Outward Mindset to motivate, drive and inspire the team. This means using an outward mindset — the ability to understand and acknowledge people and their goals and challenges — to foster greater teamwork and collectivity in the results.

The goal of outward leadership is to lead the team and take the organisation to the next level through a strong sense of belonging and teamwork.

Together, agile leadership and outward leadership can drive quick actions and results by tapping into the strength of the individuals in the team and the organisation. Here are some quick tips to develop agile and outward leadership to move your organisation forward through uncertainty.

First, become more self-aware of your current leadership capabilities and style of working. It is important to understand yourself first before knowing exactly what you need to work on. It also helps to be constantly open to feedback because we don’t always see what others notice.

Second, don’t be afraid of failure and learn quickly from mistakes. From failure and mistakes, we gain lessons. Those lessons are crucial in helping us see what went wrong so that we can restart with better knowledge.

Finally, keep your mind open, especially toward your people. You are never truly alone when it comes to work. You have different talents around you at your disposal, but it may not be easy to manage their expectations and goals. Keeping communications open is key.

Anyone can develop and effectively deploy leadership capabilities to lead their people if they have a team, or lead their own careers and projects if they are an individual. To survive amid uncertainty today, we must all shift our approaches to leadership.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC - Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at or Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at

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