Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles.
Understanding agile leadership
Traditional leadership practices are outdated and ineffective in many modern businesses. Indeed, we don’t need research to prove that one of the main causes of job dissatisfaction is to have a bad boss. If any of you has had at least some work experience, you might be one of the many people who fell victim to a bad boss, someone with a complete lack of leadership skills, trying to control, own you, and micromanage your work.
Agile leadership, with its foundation in agility, is a decision-making and decision-implementation framework. Although agile is somewhat of a buzzword now, agile principles were used for decades in military strategy, among other things.
In an organizational setting, agile leadership helps a business navigate so-called VUCA environments – or those environments that are volatile, uncertain, chaotic, or ambiguous. This is achieved by building a high-performance team that actively applies agile principles to company processes, structures, and people development. In each case, the goal is to increase competitiveness.
It should be noted that agile leadership is not a leadership approach in and of itself. Instead, it supports other styles including transformational leadership, complexity leadership, and trait-based leadership.
Agile leadership impacts two levels:
- Structural – incorporating processes, roles, responsibilities, KPIs, etc.
- Behavioral – describing actions taken by leaders in certain situations, underpinned by particular agile abilities or philosophies.
When implemented correctly, the levels mutually reinforce each other which facilitates buy-in across the organization.
Six attributes of agile leadership
With that in mind, here are six general attributes agile leaders and leadership promotes:
- Humility – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella once said that “It’s time to go from know-it-alls to learn-it-alls.” Leaders who are comfortable with not knowing something embody the confidence their teams need to achieve their goals.
- Autonomy – true agile leaders communicate outcomes to teams while letting them decide how they will achieve the desired result. This empowers teams and results in a feeling of accomplishment and ownership.
- Flexibility – when self-managing teams are first established in the early adoption phase, there is a heightened risk of errors. Agile leadership is prepared for this eventuality and is not afraid to modify or adapt the plan at regular intervals.
- Collaboration – agile leaders realize that problem solving is more effective when more than one person is involved in finding the answer. Some cases may necessitate that information is shared across departments, promoting organizational growth and expertise.
- Understanding – agile leaders are also mentors and understand each member of their team well. To build relationships with subordinates, they establish boundaries and then identify their values and definition of success. This allows the leader to push a team member beyond what they think they can achieve or pull back and provide support if necessary.
- Optimization – for a team to flourish, leaders need to create the right environment. Problems need to be dealt with quickly or identified before they have a chance to occur. Since agile leadership tends to delegate tasks to others, leaders have more time to continually refine and optimize strategy and systems.
- Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles on the individual or organizational level.
- Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles.
- What agile leadership looks like depends on the particular business or industry. However, most agree that agile leaders should display humility, autonomy, flexibility, collaboration, understanding, and optimization.
Connected Business Concepts
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