Agile Leadership is a management system that promotes team autonomy, collective responsibility and flexible project management forms. This type of company culture greatly benefits both in terms of productivity and employee well-being and engagement.
In this post, we explore the characteristics of organizations that apply agile Leadership, its advantages and what is needed to lead a company with this organizational culture. But first, let’s start by defining the concept.
Table of Contents
What Is Agile Leadership?
To define agile Leadership, we must first deal with the concept of “agile”. Agile is a methodology or set of methods that are based on a company culture characterized by forming collaborative and self-organized teams.
Under this approach, the people who work in the company seek practical solutions to the challenges posed by the projects. In this context, the leader goes from having a more managerial role to having a more valuable part in which his main objective is to provide the teams with what they need to work efficiently.
Put another way, agile Leadership empowers teams to be diligent and self-sufficient. Therefore, a leader’s relationship with her team is that of a servant leader. In other words, it is put at the team’s service to provide what it needs to carry out the projects.
Agile Leadership is a type of Leadership that is more open and innovative than traditional Leadership, in which the leader is taken as an authority. It is, therefore, more democratic and inclusive, and when making decisions, it focuses on the potential of ideas rather than on the hierarchy of people.
From the point of view of the current context, agile Leadership is the ability to lead effectively in VUCA environments and under conditions of accelerated change, uncertainty and increasing complexity.
Due to the general trend of transformation in the market and companies, agility in Leadership is an increasingly necessary competence in senior positions and executive levels and all the people who make up an organization. In this sense, employees acquire the ability to become future leaders who, in turn, will inspire new employees, fostering the company’s growth.
The fact that the agile leader does not have a traditional role does not mean he does not have a decisive role. Agile managers seek to impact their teams to get results significantly. The particularity is in the means that are used to generate that impact. The agile leader facilitates the work of professionals by providing standards, resources, experience and dialogue.
Origin of Agile Leadership
In 2001, developers in the United States produced the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. It was a natural response to a world moving at an ever-increasing speed. It arose as an alternative to the traditional waterfall model, which had become obsolete for projects where innovation and continuous improvement were vital.
The waterfall model is based on a sequential flow in which a series of phases follow one another: development, execution, adjustments, and closure… In addition, it is a system based on hierarchical work relationships, which imply high costs, slowness and rigidity when making changes.
The leading companies then begin to evolve towards the concept of organism. In other words, they develop mechanisms to adapt quickly and efficiently to the environment, allowing them to respond more satisfactorily and entirely to customers’ needs.
Why Is Agile Leadership Important?
Why bet on agile Leadership? In the first place, it is a methodology that significantly facilitates the adaptation of companies to the changes and transformations that take place in the world of work and the market. Secondly, it is the only way to solve the challenge of satisfying the new needs of customers in a more competitive economic environment.
Many studies have already determined that the percentage of workers who feel disconnected from the company and their work is over 70%. In addition, the leading cause of this dissatisfaction or demotivation is the relationship with the boss. For this reason, it is urgent to implement agile models in which Leadership is exercised in a much more flexible and, above all, horizontal and collaborative way.
One of the big problems in companies is that the teams have evolved a lot, but the middle positions have yet to be stuck in the traditional paradigm based on control and supervision. To resolve this inconsistency, managers and middle managers must evolve into facilitator roles and focus on solving problems that affect teams.
Functions Of An Agile Leader
Solve the problems that prevent teams from developing their full potential.
Promote dialogue and cooperation among team members.
Help connect the company’s strategy with the products under his command.
Generate connections between different teams to improve collaboration within the company.
Characteristics of Agile Companies
Companies that work with agile methodologies have several distinctive features:
- Team autonomy
They contain small functional units of work that are capable of achieving results on their own independently. These units are also in constant contact with the client, which increases the sense of responsibility and commitment.
- Focus on the customer
Knowing the customer’s point of view at all times and first-hand allows you to quickly adjust to the project requirements and incorporate the necessary production methods. This, together with the quality control processes, generates customer satisfaction and enables loyalty.
- Teams outside the bureaucracy and control processes
Agile teams work outside the bureaucracy and administrative procedures that affect decision-making. This way, they can focus solely on the tasks that will make the project successful.
This also increases the speed of learning and improves decision-making since while the employees collaborate to carry out the products or services, the organization deals with all the administrative, analytical and corporate functions, as well as the resolution of problems. Generic problems.
- Agile response to change
Another of the fundamental premises of agile companies is to adapt quickly to external change or even anticipate it. To do this, agile leaders must be very aware of the present and have a remarkable ability to envision the future and anticipate critical situations.
What It Takes To Be An Agile Leader
A series of practices are of great help to being an agile leader.
- The vocation of service and being attentive to the needs of others.
- Know the perspectives and personal and work objectives of people.
- Ability to influence to involve staff in decisions and encourage participation.
- Know how to communicate a clear vision that the team can adopt.
- Learn how to delegate to team members and give them the necessary confidence.
- Use your own experience and knowledge to improve others.
- Orient work processes to the generation of value.
- Stimulate the self-management of the teams in a coordinated and collaborative way.
- Establish advanced information systems that allow efficient communication.
- Do without supervision and bureaucracy that is not essential.
- Form teams of between 3 and 5 people. In the case of large projects, up to 20 people.
- Focus on the decisions that come next and not on those that have already been made.
- Develop the skills required to be an agile leader.
Agile Leadership leads to more significant commitment, trust, and stronger relationships.
Characteristics And Skills Of An Agile Leader
There are several essential skills to apply agile Leadership. But don’t worry; all these skills can be worked on and developed thanks to specialized programs and master’s degrees for senior and middle managers. The most valuable skills to lead an agile team are:
- Openness to change and innovation.
- Strategic and future vision.
- Resilience and change management.
- Orientation to learning and training, both your own and that of your team.
Communication skills to inspire others.
When And In Which Sectors Is It Beneficial To Apply Agile Leadership
Although the companies dedicated to technology, telecommunications, finance and mass entertainment have been the first to transform and adopt the agile criteria, this is a good work philosophy adaptable to any sector.
The agile methodology has been incorporated since the early 2000s in different business sectors that have seen how the need for adaptation and resilience is essential in a constantly changing environment.
Advantages of Agile Leadership
Increased customer satisfaction
A faster and more efficient response to customer demands is promoted, providing value and practical solutions. This way, customer loyalty is achieved, and the company builds a prestigious image based on quality.
Agile Leadership allows a better ability to react to changes, thus turning the company into a flexible entity capable of competing in the market and continuing to improve.
Improvement of organizational well-being
Agile Leadership strives to understand employees’ needs, viewpoints, concerns, and motivations and tries to respond to them. Therefore, it is a leadership system that strengthens internal relationships and provides personal, work and emotional well-being. This generates much healthier interactions from the individual point of view and is productive from the group point of view.
Reinforcement of employee commitment and motivation
Leading from an agile perspective allows workers to acquire greater responsibility and freedom when making decisions and flexibility when working so that the employee feels supported by the company while accelerating their learning and increasing motivation.
The Nine Principles of Agile Leadership
Actions speak louder than words.
Agile Leadership is not just about driving and promoting change but also about being the change. Those who lead by example and are directly involved in its development inspire others. This is done with actions, not words, as Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see.” An Agile Leader seeks their self-development to be humble and empathetic by demonstrating virtues such as compassion, kindness and care for their colleagues. Inspiring leaders work on themselves before others.
Better quality of thinking leads to better results.
An Agile Leader values high-quality thoughts that result in meaningful actions. An Agile Leader looks at situations from many different angles. They take data and information from those closest to the problem, which goes a long way to ensure they are in touch with reality rather than relying solely on electronic communication to inform their decision-making. This also means allowing time to think and focus on priority issues for a specific time.
Organizations improve thanks to effective feedback.
Receiving feedback is commonly perceived as a negative experience, so Agile Leaders lead the way by courageously soliciting meaningful, helpful, and timely feedback from their peers and colleagues. While asking for feedback is essential, an Agile Leader takes the time to ensure that they are visibly responding to suggestions made by their colleagues to close the feedback loop. Agile Leaders model by giving effective open, honest, and respectful feedback.
People require purpose and meaning to feel fulfilment.
An Agile Leader focuses on building and sharing a common understanding and purpose. There is a vision of change that is meaningful and applicable to the organization. The job of an Agile Leader is to stay aware of what’s on the hearts and minds of their colleagues and then unify and align those values into inspired action.
Emotions, the foundation for improving creativity and innovation
Agile Leaders inspire others by bringing their best version to work. They understand that emotion is an integral part of the human experience, and when individuals work with their feelings, they can achieve more of their potential. Innovation and creativity depend on what the Agile Leader promotes by being accessible, open, honest and transparent, expecting the same from others.
Leadership lives everywhere within the organization.
Agile Leadership must permeate all aspects of the organization or change initiative. Realizing the leadership potential of all people helps accelerate the organization’s ability to learn and adapt. The job of an Agile Leader is to develop depth in the organization’s leadership capacity by providing opportunities for their reports to lead. Mentoring tomorrow’s leaders in the principles and practices of a servant leader weave the seeds for the Agile culture to prevail.
Agile leaders grant power and authority appropriately.
An Agile Leader recognizes that people work best when they are enabled, engaged, and energized. Empowering individuals is a necessary skill of the Agile Leader as they balance the emerging needs and tensions of the organization. Agile Leaders recognize that empowerment is not an “all or nothing” concept. Instead, it is a continuum of leadership behaviour that responds to the current context for change.
Collaborative communities achieve more than individuals.
Agile Leaders build communities based on trust, respect, and meaningful working relationships. Their role is to provide these communities with what is necessary to operate efficiently and eventually allow them to operate autonomously within specific parameters. The Agile Leader understands that forgiveness, positivity, generosity, humility, and gratitude are essential to a healthy work environment. The healthy functioning of the group, along with the preservation of psychological safety, allows the Agile Leader to promote learning and development while maintaining balanced results and performance for the organization’s benefit.
Great ideas can come from anywhere within the organization.
The people who are close to the problem usually have the best ideas for solving it. Agile Leaders allow themselves to be open to the influence and opinions of others, regardless of their status or position. To this end, the Agile Leader stops, listens, and takes the time to listen to his colleagues’ thoughts and ideas for improvement. Even when some pictures are not used, the Agile Leader promotes a continuous flow of creativity by helping people understand which ideas are helpful and which are not.