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Becoming A Strategic Hustler™ – The Agile Leadership Framework

Written by: Prof. Dr. Frank Lee Harper, Jr., Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Forty-plus years have allowed me to look at past, present, and future leadership mindsets and practices along with management best practices through different lenses. My street-wise, athletic, and college-smart perspective on business, leadership, and transformation is attributed to the following experiences witnessed through these lenses: inner-city survivor, little league/high school/college scholar-athlete, semi-professional athlete, park-rec and high school football coach, community volunteer, spiritual teacher, corporate educator/trainer, Ph.D. recipient, D.B.A. candidate, international college professor, international senior academic board member and administrator, senior corporate executive, entrepreneur, philanthropist, individual contributor, godfather, legal guardian, international advisor, and most important role model.

Over seventy-five (75) countries, hundreds of thousands of people, thousands of projects, and billions of dollars saved or generated have influenced my agile leadership approach throughout the globe. I share these not for self-aggrandizement but recognize that leading and managing in a global volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world is a high-wire balancing act. Thus, my ambition and [aim]bition are to educate, encourage, equip, and empower others to demonstrate the rare ability to courageously pull everything together to make things happen no matter how challenging the circumstances. Only then will they reach their optimal experience and be able to join my belief that "Leaders Are Born To Be Made!"

This brings me to a term I coined to describe the intelligent tenacious leader required for strategic execution in the 21st century. Allow me to introduce you to the term "Strategic Hustler™." Why the word "Hustler?" Great question! Let us start with an operational definition and then a brief history lesson. First, a hustler is an enterprising person with the desire to excel, discipline to learn, and determination to perform. Second, the etymology of the word "hustle" is from the Dutch hustelen, "to shake to and fro," which is precisely the basis of my argument on why an intelligent tenacious leadership mindset and behavior drives the successful completion of strategic initiatives in a globalized VUCA world. Keep on reading and learning.

Honestly, the scholarly side of me warranted the previous definitions. However, my practical side has caused embracing this term in my everyday communication on my global introduction of agile leadership concepts worldwide. My agile leadership skills allowed surviving a heavily crime-ridden area in the streets of New Haven, Connecticut; sharpen as a star scholar-athlete, and continuously improve through business and life experiences. My journey from street hustler to Strategic hustler™ was fueled by my college education, reinforced by my Ivy-league-educated uncle’s use of the phrase “smart hustle” to introduce socially accepted ways and means to develop the "street smarts" necessary for urban street survival. My coaches [little league, high school, college, semi-pro] used the term “hustle” to inspire and motivate my teammates and me never to give up and to compete on each play, whether in practice or a game, as if we were "playing our last down." Regardless of the challenges, the focus quoting what a friend and mentor, who is also a National Football League (NFL) Hall-of-Famer once told me, "Do NOW what others won't; so that you can accomplish LATER what others can't." Finally, sitting in the boardroom of a banking client and having a senior executive state, "I agree with Dr. Harper; we have to "hustle" to achieve our strategic goals."

You see, it is all about winning. So to win a championship, you first must be in a championship game. The word that best describes the effort required to be in a position to win is the word "hustle." It takes an extraordinary effort to win the game. In other words, it takes being a “Strategic Hustler™."

This brings me to why agile leadership concepts improve the digital economy and transformations. During my 2004 Ph.D. defense, the agile leadership concepts uncovered during my seven years of research [1998 to 2004] surfaced while defending my dissertation, “Effective Leadership for Enterprise Commerce Management." After continuous research, “Nine Principles of Agile Leadership," published by the Agile Business Consortium (UK), guides these agile leadership concepts. My 25 years of practical experience influencing, as a leader or executive contributor, groundbreaking transformation ambitions---i.e., business transformation, organization transformation, digital transformation, and data transformation] allowed me to witness a pattern of mindsets, practices, and behaviors that led to the success and failures of e-commerce and platform business models for businesses [conglomerates, small-to-midsized, startup], international institutions of higher education, and governments [US/foreign]. I am a Cambridge Corporate University (Switzerland) Presidential Scholar writing a Doctor of Business Administration dissertation on how agile leadership concepts can contribute to the success of innovation and digital transformations, helping to grow the Digital Economy. By leveraging my book “A.G.I.L.E. L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. with a G.R.I.P.™: A Twenty-First Century Journey: From Street hustler to Strategic hustler™”; I am using acronyms, like the ones appearing in this article, to teach these mindsets, practices, and behaviors associated with each letter. What are they? Keep on reading and learning.

The “A.G.I.L.E. L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. with a G.R.I.P.™ framework, referred to hereafter as "The Agile Leadership Framework,” contributes to devising the appropriate answers to the assorted reasons why the growth of the digital economy is burdened with a tremendous amount of failed digital initiatives. According to Forbes magazine, over 70% of digital transformation projects fail. The Agile Leadership Framework provides globally proven agile leadership concepts aligned to the nine agile leadership principles categorized as communication, commitment, and collaboration. Its qualities—e.g., flexible, upfront & visionary, and in-control—are essential to devising and developing solutions to the daunting array of problems that, because of a VUCA world, are multi-dimensional, multi-jurisdictional, and multi-disciplinary. These problems include but are not limited to: digital disruption, climate changes, global pandemics, failed states, narco-crime, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and environmental degradation. The Agile Leadership Framework embraces inventing innovative systems involving streamlined operations, automated processes, and real-time descriptive/predictive/prescriptive information. From my street-wise, athletic, college-smart perspective of business, leadership, and transformation-specific agile leadership concepts within an innovative-driven enterprise contribute to:

  1. Having the correct growth and digital mindset

  2. Having the right culture

  3. Hiring the right talent

  4. Having clear strategic, tactical, and operational goals

  5. Having the appropriate technology strategy

  6. Giving projects time to succeed (Craft an operational definition of what “Fail Fast” means)

I do not neglect the various documented reasons for the abysmal performances of digital transformation projects. However, from my unique perspective, the primary contributor points back to the lack of intelligent and tenacious leadership to drive strategic execution. Leadership needs to be flexible (A.G.I.L.E.), upfront/visionary (L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P.), and in-control (G.R.I.P.) These three (3) acronyms expose and teach the agile leadership concepts to becoming a 21st-century Strategic Hustler™. Moreover, a Strategic hustler™ has a spiritual connection that allows them to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, giving them the desire to embrace the challenges of C.H.A.N.G.E., the acronym for [Creating a Healthy And New Growth to becoming Extraordinary].

The P.R.I.D.E., the acronym for [Passion, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Execution] of a Strategic hustler™, drives a work ethic focused on getting good…getting better…becoming the best in continuously growing to become extraordinary. Our strategic thinking enablers of strategic attitude, strategic aptitude, and strategic altitude embrace the appropriate knowledge and doing agile mindsets, practices, and behaviors, which requires being flexible (A.G.I.L.E.), upfront/visionary (L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P.), and in-control (G.R.I.P.) of their lives and the situation.

Each letter represents a world-class leadership mindset/behavior and management best practice that though not all-inclusive, has proven to be lenses for uncovering leadership strategies to make things happen. Readers and practitioners have communicated the “common-sense” of the information shared in “The Agile Leadership Framework.” My response is quoting French Philosopher Voltaire, “Common sense is not so common.” So read and learn from each article to follow.

This is the first of a series of articles discussing snippets of the agile leadership concepts comprising “The Agile Leadership Framework.” You will learn from the experiences of ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things in their personal and professional transformations. This is the foundation of the unique corporate education experience at Switzerland's world-renowned Cambridge Corporate University (CCU). My roles at this international scholarly research and teaching University has allowed me to educate, encourage, equip, and empower thousands of executives and professionals worldwide to exercise their transformation ambitions to create a better world. I hope you enjoy reading and learning from them to the extent that I will enjoy writing and sharing them.

Welcome to the Strategic hustler™ journey.

My next article will discuss the Adaptive Mindset and Adaptable Behavior; the "A" in A.G.I.L.E. of “The Agile Leadership Framework.”


Professor Dr. Frank Lee Harper, Jr.

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Prof. Dr. Frank Lee Harper, Jr., Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Frank Lee Harper, Jr. is the founder and world champion of agile leadership concepts. He is President ‒ UBTS International Corp having strategic affiliates in over 55 countries, Provost / Associate Professor ‒ Cambridge Corporate University, having branches in over 25 countries while serving on for-profit and not-for-profit advisory boards. He is an award-winning IT leader and published author who is adept at influencing and teaching strategic transformations across multiple countries, industries, disciplines, and technologies for businesses having global revenues ($1+ Trillion); savings/growth ($10+ Billion); with budgets ($4+ Billion). His favorite motto is, "Leaders Are Born To Be Made."



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