November 01, 2020 The Leadership Issue

Leadership: Agility in the Face of Fragility

Leaders who ignore the fragility of themselves and those with whom they interact may soon realize that complacency leads to anxiety or panic.

Gerry Riskin
A clear chain breaks in half.

A clear chain breaks in half.

via Hayri ER / Getty Images

Leaders are aware of the imperative to be agile right now. However, many may have a blind spot and are not conscious of or sensitive to the fact that their constituencies are particularly stressed and fragile.

Experts tell us that:

  • Business agility is the ability to adapt quickly to market changes—to respond rapidly and flexibly to customer demands and to adapt and lead change in a productive and cost-effective way without compromising quality, all in order to continuously achieve a competitive advantage.
  • Fragility is the quality of being delicate or vulnerable. Because of the pandemic and social unrest, almost all of the people with whom a leader interacts, both internally and externally, are extremely fragile. So are the leaders themselves, whether they are aware of it or not.

At a recent seminar conducted by my friend, the lawyer and PhD psychologist Larry Richard (, he suggested that we lawyers are not the most resilient group in society. In fact, we have a higher need for predictability than most and are vulnerable when confronted by changes, especially if the changes come without warning, result in a significant loss of control, or carry with them the possibility of injury or even death. The pandemic and social unrest tick all the boxes.

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