What is Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the skill of crafting the correct context for self-organization in changing

Agile Leadership - Table of Content

What is Agile Leadership?

Agile leadership is the skill of crafting the correct context for self-organization in changing environments. Leadership demands the ability to handle a wide range of unforeseen and ambiguous circumstances. An excellent Agile leader knows a perfect balance between anarchy and strict working regulations to address the ever-changing external circumstances correctly, and subsequently maintains an appropriate working environment. The main focus of such leaders is laid on workplace culture, ownership, users’ feedback and mindset, and long-term aspirations of the company.

Such a leader gains agility (ability to move swiftly and smoothly in changing circumstances) through their ability to analyze every situation with varied perspectives. One of their characteristic features is that they adapt faster to any situation. They belong to the mode four leaders who are highly skilled for operating in any system of thinking. Agile leadership helps the teams of the organization to collaborate efficiently and learn from their surrounding environment through feedback and constant improvements. Agile leaders are dedicated to raising the confidence of their team members.

The 3 C’s of Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is a holistic working approach that can make things work through 3 C’s, i.e. Communication, Collaboration, and Commitment. Let’s understand these three pillars of agile leadership in detail:

1. Communication:

Agile leaders need to communicate with their team in order to help them adapt and nurture a business culture which embraces constant experimentation and skill development.

2. Collaboration:

Collaboration is an essential part of agile leadership where the leaders work together with other departments of the company and work on setting long term goals for the teams resulting in the company.

4. Commitment:

Such leaders are committed to working for creating an organizational structure that leads to better communication and collaboration among the workforce in order to achieve the long-term goals of the company.

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The Nine Principles of Agile Leadership

1. Practice what you preach

The concept of agile leadership does not only focus on promoting the change among employees but also on being the change that a leader wants to bring in the work environment. Agile leaders turn themselves into humble and empathetic humans by adapting the virtues such as compassion and care for the employees. Further, they guide their team for adapting such virtues and helping each other to grow into a successful team.

2. If you expect improved outcomes, enhance the quality of your thoughts.

An ideal agile leader tries to gather the different perspective of any problem by approaching the people related to that problem. With high-quality and open thinking, they possess the ability to bring out the solutions. Thus, an improved thinking process helps to align the actions for getting better outcomes.

3. Effective feedback is essential.

Agile leadership develops through a collection of meaningful feedback from time to time. Feedbacks from the peers and colleagues will give an overview of the strengths and weaknesses in the leadership qualities of an agile leader. Apart from this, an agile leader also needs to close the feedback loop by responding to their colleagues’ feedback and suggestions. Further, they also prefer giving out honest feedback to their colleagues.

4. Making the colleagues understand the essence and purpose of the work

When people understand the importance of the work they are doing, they will naturally work with more efficiency. One of the principles of agile leadership is making the people aware of their work and its importance by giving them every single detail explaining the purpose of their work in the progress of their organization. An agile leader is always aware of his/her colleagues’ mindset. This helps them to align their colleagues’ actions in order to gain a fruitful outcome.

5. Emotions drive creativity and innovation.

A characteristic feature of agile leadership is inspiring the workforce to bring out the best that lies within themselves. Emotions are an integral part of humans. They can drive the quality of work that a human does. An agile leader connects emotionally with the colleagues and with honest, open, unbiased, and motivational conversations bring out the best in them that not only benefits the organization but also gives confidence to the colleagues for taking up new challenges.

6. Providing leadership opportunities to potential colleagues in the organization

An agile leader is always open to identify the leadership potential of the colleagues in the organization. Such leaders never step back in providing their colleagues with the chance to show their leadership skills and lead the projects that they can handle efficiently. An agile culture thrives on the concept of mentoring the future leaders for being successful agile leaders. Thus, the hierarchy continues with robust, agile leaders that ultimately benefit the organization.

7. Empowerment over power and authority

The base of agile leadership is empowerment, unlike the traditional leadership that gives all the power and authority in the hands of its leaders. An agile leader knows the balance between strict regulations and freedom. He/she always tries to energize their colleagues rather than using their power to pressurize them for work.

8. Giving importance to community building rather than individual works

Agile leadership is all about merging the skills of different individuals by forming a community and directing them to work for achieving the organization’s goals. An agile leader understands that every individual is equipped with some or the other skills and these skills can do wonders when different other skills in a community complement them. So, agile leaders form a community, collaborate the skills and provide them with resources to work upon the tasks.

9. Underestimating any employee is strictly prohibited under agile leadership.

An organization has many hidden talents, and great ideas can emerge from anyone in the organization. The duty of an agile leader is to inspire everyone in the organization to come up with their ideas and listen to them properly. Agile leaders always believe that great ideas can pop up from anywhere in the organization. Hence, they do not miss a single chance of hearing their colleagues’ ideas before coming to a conclusion.

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Concepts of Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is nothing but an amalgamation of some specific concepts and ideas. Let’s 

go through these concepts:

Servant leadership:

Agile leadership is referred to as servant leadership, where the people do not work to serve the leader, but the leader works harder to serve the employees/people working with him/her. 

The following features characterize servant leadership:

a. Providing service to the co-workers

b. Endeavour to promote the community

c. Creating a shared vision

d. Dealing with every work in a holistic manner

e. Inclusion of every person of the community in the decision-making process

Intent-based leadership:

Agile leadership is an intent-based leadership and the principles explaining this concept are as follows:

a. Agile leadership focuses on creating leaders rather than followers.

b. It is all about resolving the problems faced by the people in the community.

c. Taking deliberate actions whenever necessary for the community’s benefits is the characteristic of an agile leader.

d. Specification of goals is important but defining the methods is open for the community.

e. Power and authority have no place in agile leadership. Empowerment is the force that drives the work in such a community.

Agile Mindset

Following are the five areas that exist in the core of an agile mindset:

1. Ability to come out with creative solutions leaving the traditional method of planning aside: An agile domain is highly complex, and no one can predict the future in such situations. Hence, the conventional process of scientific planning does not work in an agile environment. An agile leader needs to find creative solutions by using innovative approaches to solve a problem.

2. Delivering value: An agile leader focuses on the outcome rather than the output. Continuous delivery of values to the customers is given great importance. In such environments, the leaders do not fear failures; instead, they empower the community to overcome these failures with collective work by continuously adapting to the changes happening around them.

3. Self-organization: Here, the leader considers the team as his/her own self. There is no individualism. It is the team who faces the failures and even enjoys the victory. An agile leader makes the use of values like compassion, empathy, transparency, honesty, and courage to organize teamwork.

4. Promoting collaboration: An agile leader does not force anyone to join and contribute to the community. He/she fosters collaboration that is open for all. Participants who are willing to work for the team can enter and perform for the team’s success.

5. Incorporating cross-functionality among the team members: An agile leader ensures end-to-end delivery of values right from the team members to the customers.

Criteria for Successful Agile Transformations

The following five criteria characterize successful agile transformations in a business organization:

1. Leadership is not about command & control; instead, leaders work for guiding and empowering the community

2. There are no local optimization endeavours or personal agendas, and the organization is aligned to form a single community.

3. No hierarchies exist when it comes to participation. Leaders do not underestimate any participant of the community and are open to listen to every idea as well as provide equal opportunities to everyone.

4. 21st-century problems are different and more complex than the ones that existed in the 19th century. Agile leadership is all about meeting the demands for solving these complex problems of the modern world through creative problem-solving methods rather than the traditional planning methods.

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Thus, agile leadership is way more than leadership. It is a combination of leadership, mentorship, empowerment, and empathy. It is not about maintaining a hierarchy; instead, it focuses on providing equal leadership opportunities to all the potential leaders in the community. Agile leadership is the solution to deliver values to the customers, even in the constantly changing work environment.

Other Related Article:

1. Agile Prioritization Techniques

2. Agile VS Scrum

3. Best Agile Certifications

4. Agile resume

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Research Analyst
As a Senior Writer for HKR Trainings, Sai Manikanth has a great understanding of today’s data-driven environment, which includes key aspects such as Business Intelligence and data management. He manages the task of creating great content in the areas of Digital Marketing, Content Management, Project Management & Methodologies, Product Lifecycle Management Tools. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.