The Essence of Leadership Agility

Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee are iconic legends and history will always remember them as the best martial arts sportsmen of all time, one was a master in boxing, the other was a master in kung fu and he invented his mixed martial art. For the people interested in sports or movies, action figures, 

There are some commonalities between these two figures other than their commitment to being the best at what they do, the two martial artists inspired us with their real stories that include suffering, persistence, hard work, focus, mindset, leadership, and agility.

They are both great leaders and inspirational characters who are still influencing a lot of people till now

Two Essential Qualities

Going further into detail by focusing on two essential qualities that both athletes possess, which are Agility and Leadership

Ali was older and more experienced than Lee, Bruce idolized Ali as a boxer and learned his techniques and style. Also, Ali was a fan of Lee and thought of him as the best in the arena. Agility is a common quality and crucial to both martial artists, the exact definition of the word agility is “to be able to move easily and quickly, physicality” or “the ability to think and understand quickly, mentality”. Muhammad Ali once said “Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” What Ali and Lee stressed; is applicable and the same in the business world.

(Prof. Julian Birkinshaw, 2016, Forbes) The same concept applies to the business world, where agile firms are now capable of delivering instant, intimate, frictionless value at scale. To succeed in agility management, one must have an agility mindset. According to (Isaac Sacolick, deputy editor of the enterprise technology publication InfoWorld), the terminology Agility officially started in 2001 when 17 technologists summarized four basic principles of Agile project management to develop better software.

These principles are:


  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  4. Responding to change by following a plan.


More precisely, the Agile methodology is a project management approach to software design that enabled IT teams to rapidly respond to change and provide directions as they build the software solutions. However, as suggested by Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Spotify; Agile methodologies now extend beyond purely technical teams and Functioning technology to permeate all internal teams.

The success of Agile methodologies depends on people thinking creatively and approaching the problem differently. I’m sure that the 17 technicians faced obstacles in the process of work and couldn’t get the job done. So, they devised a plan to break through the barriers they faced. Providing solutions to problems is the hallmark of all prominent companies. This is a lesson that small and medium business owners need to learn from Agile methodologies. Not to drive away from our original story, when the topic of leadership arises in a group of people, there is always one question that rises on the table whether a leader is naturally born or can be made? Bruce Lee said once, “As you think, so you shall become.” Easy and on point, Leadership is a mindset, and it can be acquired over the years with experience and knowledge as knowledge is power and half the battle, and experience is being able to take a few quality decisions that are acquired from wrong decisions that are acquired from mistakes.

Diving in depth into the four essential aspects of leadership from the point of view of both Ali and Lee. Of course, knowledge and Willpower are required, but they are no substitute for actions, to summarize Lee’s perspective is that if knowledge didn’t translate into actions, then it was either fake or useless.

When we are in leadership positions, we must educate and instill strong morals in the people we work with. But we are true leaders only when we inspire actions. Secondly, when facing adversity, rediscover and recalibrate yourself, so you can be your best no matter what.

Let me throw a quick story here, sometime in 1970, Lee tried the “Good Morning” exercise. Where he had to lean forward with a barbell over his shoulders and bend forward while keeping his back and legs straight. In the process, poor Lee threw his back out. His recovery was long and slow. But this time he took advantage of it to write a series of papers on his favorite process: martial arts. The lesson here is to always use whatever resources are available to you, even when you’re hit by blocks or limitations. Good leaders know how to inspire such conduct in their teams. When it’s raining on the field, practice indoors. When your team’s down with colds, work on mental strategy instead of practicing moves. And if they’re too weak to study, hold a bonding session for them, and watch a movie together.

Thirdly, no matter who you lead, they will suffer defeats. Whether you’re operating in business, sports, the arts, or what have you, your team will experience disappointments. It’s on you, as the leader, to set an ongoing tone of learning and opportunity from the top, which will help boost morale and realign efforts to continue the fight. Remember words once spoken by Bruce Lee: “Defeat is a state of mind; No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.” Finally, Lee once shared the insight that “Learning is never cumulative, it is a movement of knowing which has no beginning and no end.” When we think about these words, we can see the clear truth in them. People’s minds don’t operate cumulatively, loading up more and more information like data on some computer hard drive. Human consciousness operates in far more nuanced and delicate ways. When we acquire new knowledge, the same replaces the old, causing a rewiring of our brain that changes our consciousness and outlook on things. Whether we are talking about business success, spiritual development, or any other subject, new knowledge causes us to reinterpret reality in a way that shifts our actions either slightly or profoundly.

Having said that, don’t expect your team to memorize every lesson you teach them, much less expect their growth to occur linearly. Sometimes lessons will stick; other times they won’t. What one team member remembers; another will forget. The important part is to bear in mind that learning is an ever-unfolding, ongoing and open-ended process.

Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee never stepped inside the ring together and never challenged each other in a real fight but they both admired and respected one another. “If a match was ever conducted, Muhammad Ali would have won no questions asked”. These were Bruce Lee’s words and Ronda Rousey’s (famous UFC champion) words as well. I always expected Lee to win. Honestly who thought Lee would say that? In the end, they both affirmed the importance of acquiring an Agile Mindset and Leadership Traits. In an unpredictable business environment, small and medium businesses need to address the concerns and challenges experienced by their target market and implement measures internally that allow them to remain viable and operate efficiently. With an agile mindset, you can devise strategies to counteract any obstacle that gets in your way.


Look at your team. Are they in motion? Productive? Excelling? Experiencing forward momentum, and even setbacks? All such things are excellent signs. For if your team is educated and has a good attitude, but lacks a performance element, then that’s a reflection of the leadership skills needed. Step it up and remind your team that the world is a place where actions matter most.

When it comes to seeking the Agility Environment or the Leadership positive & healthy Mindset for a company’s individuals, teams, and managers. Pinnacle will always be a perfect choice. Pinnacle programs and training support building a mindset for growth with agility. Programs are designed for current and future leaders to be able to motivate, Inspire, and develop their people. Anywhere, people are the essence of productivity, and their mindsets are the roots of moving forward, and that’s the pinnacle’s turn and responsibility.      

Pinnacle® is a multi-country consultancy firm. Our consultants are spread around the world. We have built our organization on a modern business model with agility, diversity, and resilience to the business dynamics. We have chosen our technology platform to support our modern mindset thus we work from anywhere …. As work is not a place anymore. We implement Lean Six Sigma in everything we do whether internally or externally at our client sites.

Article is written by:

Bassem Nakhla,

Business Development Associate

Emirates and GCC Region

Pinnacle Ltd.

Pinnacle Ltd. is a multi-countries modern consultancy firm, with offices around 11 countries in 4 continents, and 28 consultants working remotely and virtually managed.

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