31. Agile Leadership in a Time of Rapid Change

We have two guests in this episode. That’s a first for us! They’re Noah Susskind and Samantha Stephens, colleagues at McKinsey, the global consulting company.

Noah is deeply into cybersecurity. He shares some of his experiences in our four-way conversation and will come back soon to say more. The focus here is on Samantha’s work on agile leadership—and that’s what cohost Kim Leary teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Samantha describes how traditional command and control leadership just doesn’t work in today’s fast-paced world. We’re flooded with information, far too much for anyone to master, and changes come, both bad and good, a mile a minute.

It falls to teams of people, with different responsibilities and often differing perspectives, to figure out jointly what needs doing and how to do it.

The task of the agile leader is ensuring that the team has shared vision—ideally an inspiring one—that they are working toward, something that they’ve had a voice and a hand in creating.

As their leader, Samantha sees herself as a coach in this process, encouraging experimentation and ongoing learning. As she explains, she didn’t come into this role naturally. She had to experiment and learn herself.

What she has discovered about leading others applies in organizations large and small.