Organisational agility is a strategic imperative for the financial services industry, and relies on a leadership model in which every member of the team is empowered to manage change. In my previous blog post, I shared how accountability is foundational to a leadership style that equips firms to respond more quickly to changing circumstances―in other words, to become agile.

One of the key challenges for financial services firms in adopting an accountable and empowering leadership style is letting go of traditional hierarchical, siloed, command-and-control leadership methods and instead allowing leadership to emerge, ebb, and flow throughout the organisation.

In this blog post, I’ll share how you can transform your firm’s leadership practices from rigid to fluid by encouraging personal and organisational accountability.

What leadership looks like in agile organisations

Leadership in agile organisations has two distinguishing characteristics:

  1. Leadership at all levels―leadership is not defined by an organisational hierarchy or tenure.
  2. Leadership roles change in response to changing circumstances.

These leadership conditions are created by empowering employees and nurturing accountability across the firm. As I explained in my series on the zero-based organisation, successful, agile firms are those in which work is tied to a shared vision and only the work that matters gets done. Defining what that work is requires input from every member of the team. Getting that work done requires engagement at every level.

In agile firms, networks of leadership are the norm and work is delegated to self-managing teams. People are trusted to make the right decisions because they understand the common goal. Mistakes are viewed as learning experiences. Everyone is a leader and everyone is responsible for managing change.

A three-pronged approach to leadership transformation

Traditionally, financial services firms have tended to be risk-averse and avoid uncertainty. They’ve supported this positioning with a hierarchical and rigid leadership style. This model can be an encumbrance in today’s disruptive environment.

The good news is, there are steps leaders can take to change their leadership style, infuse accountability into the work environment, and develop the agility needed to compete in today’s market. Current leaders can help fuel accountable leadership through a three-pronged approach that addresses:

  1. How they lead: Leaders must set the vision, direction, and priorities for the organisation and communicate them well. Then, they must let go of the reins and clear the path so employees can take responsibility for their roles in achieving shared objectives. Micromanagement is out, trust and empowerment are in.
  2. How they encourage leadership in others: In an agile model, leadership is grounded in coaching and guidance. Decision making takes place at every level, including the level closest to the task.
  3. How they unearth hidden leadership potential: One of the most valuable things leaders in an agile environment can do is identify natural leaders within the organisation and encourage them to lead.

You can take the following actions to support accountable agile leadership:

  1. Maintain a human mindset by valuing, respecting, nurturing and empowering workers.
  2. Encourage collaboration through coaching and creating a collaborative framework.
  3. Facilitate mentoring, so employees can learn from each other and develop collaborative relationships.
  4. Look for agile coaches inside the organisation. These employees know the business, understand the Agile methodology and principles, and can be invaluable resources in transforming to agile.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about how to create a culture based on accountability.

For more information about agility in financial services, please see Accenture’s reports:

Enterprise Agility in Financial Services: The New Strategic Imperative

Three Waves of Change: The Financial Services Journey to Enterprise Agility

Talking Agility

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