Why are agility & adaptability in the workplace top soft skills?

Caitlin Ritch our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 15 April 2024

When you’re going through the executive hiring process, the list of desirable hard and soft skills is extensive—but agility and adaptability should be at the forefront. 


With so many skills that candidates bring to the table, determining who the most valuable person will be to your business is very much a strategic decision. In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, executives lacking experience in facing challenges, embracing change and swiftly pivoting may not be the best fit.


In this article, we look at what agility and adaptability mean in the workplace, why these skills are so important in your executive leaders and the part technology plays in the way leaders work.

An example of agility in the workplace

Picture a scenario in which a sudden market shift threatens your core product line. An executive with strong agility and adaptability skills, rather than panicking, would be able to quickly assess the situation, marshal resources and steer your team towards developing an innovative solution. 


This example of agility in the workplace could transform a potential crisis into a launchpad for new market opportunities, and it’s why this skill is so important.

What are soft skills & why are they desirable in your executive team?

Soft skills, in contrast to hard skills, are transferable across industries and are particularly critical in leadership roles. 


These include emotional intelligence, problem-solving and, importantly, agility and adaptability in the workplace. Such skills enable leaders to navigate through various challenges and industries, making them invaluable assets.


In fact, these types of skills are so important that 89% of recruiters say that when a hire doesn't work out, it’s typically due to a lack of soft skills. Additionally, more than 60% of professionals say soft skills are just as important as hard skills.

What does it mean to be agile as a leader?

Being agile in an executive role means being able to react positively to change; but more than that, it requires a proactive approach to leadership and decision-making. 


Agility in the workplace, especially for an executive leader, can manifest in different ways, such as:

  • Quick decision-making: An agile leader can make quick yet informed decisions, gathering essential information rapidly and being decisive in their actions
  • Flexibility in strategy and planning: Agile leaders aren’t tied to one strategy. They understand that market dynamics can shift rapidly and are prepared to alter their approach as needed
  • Innovative problem-solving: They approach problems with a creative mindset, often finding unconventional solutions that yield effective results
  • Effective communication: Being agile as a leader also involves communicating changes and new strategies effectively, ensuring teams are aligned 
  • Embracing technological advancements: As we go into in more detail below, agile leaders keep up-to-date with emerging technologies and understand how they can be leveraged for the company’s benefit 
  • Resilience in the face of challenges: An agile leader maintains composure during turbulent times, instilling confidence in their teams 
  • Encouraging a culture of agility: True agility involves both individual adaptability and cultivating workplace in which your entire team is encouraged to think and act in an agile manner

What does good adaptability in the workplace look like?

Agility and adaptability are very similar. In an executive context, adaptability is about thriving amidst constant change and pressure, rather than excelling in a single skill. 


It involves the ability to adjust strategies, embrace new technologies and lead teams through transitions smoothly. Recruiters typically seek senior executives with a strong track record of adaptability, i.e., those who can demonstrate their capacity to evolve with an organization.

How does emerging technology affect the way executives work?

Emerging technologies are reshaping executive roles. This isn’t just in terms of adapting to new tools, but in influencing your organization’s strategic direction. 


Today’s senior leaders must be tech-savvy enough to understand the implications of new technologies. This could include leveraging data analytics for better decision-making, understanding the potential of AI and machine learning in optimizing operations and staying ahead of digital marketing trends to maintain competitive advantage. Executives must also manage remote and digitally connected teams, ensuring effective collaboration in an increasingly virtual workspace. 


The ability to integrate new technologies into existing processes, while maintaining being able to adapt and pivot as tech evolves, is crucial. It not only enhances operational efficiency, but can also drive your organization forward in terms of innovation. 

Why leaders must be able to embrace change

The ability to embrace and capitalize on change quickly, whether that change is good or bad, is non-negotiable for senior leaders. Organizations encounter turbulence, and success hinges on leaders who can navigate through these more challenging times with agility. 


This underlines the significance of recruiting executives who have demonstrated their ability to embrace and drive change. It’s why executive recruiters always ensure that candidates have a proven track record of embracing change and encouraging their teams to do the same—and that they can demonstrate this at the interview stage.

How Hanover can help you find agile & adaptable leaders

Agility and adaptability are key executive soft skills. These attributes aren’t just desirable; they're essential. Hanover’s executive search process is designed to identify these skills, ensuring your next leaders are equipped to steer your business through an ever-changing, fast-paced landscape. 

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