Being an Agile Leader

The article was originally published by Emergence Journal (Sep 2021). 

Four times a year, Emergence Journal brings together a curated selection of exclusive stories by great thinkers and practitioners from around the globe about business agility.

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References

Zuzana Sochova (2021) The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence

Over the past two decades the world has become increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – in other words, unpredictable and sort of ugly. The time where organizations could pretend change wasn’t necessary and that all they needed to do was improve their planning process is over. Once businesses accept that they are dealing with VUCA challenges, they realize that Agility at the organizational level is necessary to succeed in such an environment.

“Don’t DO agile, BE agile.”

Such organizations have reached a point on their agile journey far beyond team level frameworks and scaling approaches. Those are well described, and not that hard to apply when there is a strong sense of urgency and desire for change. The real challenge lies in embracing business agility and changing how the organization is structured and designed. People need to stop seeing agile as just another project management practice, and reconnect to the fundamental agile values and principles. It’s not about “doing agile” but “being agile”.

“Trust is a prerequisite for agility, transparency is an enabler, but purpose is the true driving force of agile”

Agile organizations are formed as a network of small autonomous teams. When an organization is not ready for such a level of agility and autonomy, changing processes and structures to build these new autonomous networks only creates chaos. Having the right culture and mindset is essential.

The first step towards an agile mindset is to build trust. It looks simple, but takes time. People need to invest time into building relationships with each other. They must come to know their colleagues outside the work tasks, and see others as people, not just roles. To form team spirit, team members need to experience something significant together.

How can this be achieved? First, start small and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Create a space where team members can share interesting moments from their history, or unusual (but not uncomfortable) facts about themselves. Later, once they are comfortable being open or even exposed, they can discuss their failures, weaknesses, and fears. Eventually they’ll be able to share embarrassing moments, which creates vulnerability.

Second, invest in diverse and accessible forms of teambuilding. There are no limits. Be flexible. Some teambuilding activities can be as simple as lunch together or a videocall. Other times, teams can go out together for a beer, go on a hiking trip, go bowling or boating, join a cooking class, and so on. Be creative when it comes to choosing teambuilding activities. The more diverse activities you do, the more you get to know each other.

Team members should also take some time to reflect on what they know about their colleagues. What are they great at? What are they passionate about? What are their hobbies? How do they behave outside their jobs? And so on. On the other side, team members should ask what people around them are afraid of and how they can help their colleagues feel more self-confident. Great teams are not afraid of conflicts. Once they reach the vulnerability trust level it becomes clear that conflicts are healthy, and that disagreement is a natural element of interaction. This is all useful for achieving productive dialogue, rich with varying perspectives and constructive arguments.

The second ingredient for creating an agile mindset is transparency. Being transparent about what needs to be done, what success looks like, and what to avoid is crucial for any environment, but in agile spaces we often go one step further. Great agile teams create radical transparency where everything is visible to everyone.

It’s true that radical transparency is scary at first. For some people, transparency is a threat as they have built their power and authority around hiding information. Lack of transparency is a weapon which can eventually kill agility as it makes collaboration and self-organization almost impossible. It’s a great friend of hierarchical structures supported by fear and politics. “If I’m the only one who has the information, no one can jeopardize my position.”

In addition, transparency creates anxiety for many people. Naturally, they’ll try to avoid it by brainstorming all the possible reasons why radical transparency is a bad idea. “People will feel overwhelmed by that much information! They don’t need to know everything!” they say.

To start with transparency, people must first have the courage to discuss their situations honestly, be prepared for difficult feedback, and trust that people will help them. People learn by doing, and team members must understand that perfection is not required. Instead, agile is about learning from small failures. Failure is a good thing as it allows people to improve. As such, creating a safe-to-fail environment is critical for agile organizations.

The third ingredient in the mix is purpose. Autonomy without a guiding purpose only creates chaos. The higher the autonomy, the stronger the purpose needs to be to glue it together. This gives everyone the same goal, belonging, identity, the reason for why they are there and where they are heading to.

 “Being an Agile leader is not about positional power, but your ability to leverage the power of influence.”

On their agile journey, organizations inevitably realize that to change the culture, change in leadership is also essential. Agile organizations are collaborative, creative, and adaptive networks. They are like living organisms, operating on different principles. They naturally flatten the hierarchical structure, rendering the hierarchical org chart unimportant. They are based on autonomy, self-organization, and empowerment, leveraging the power of self-organization. Instead of hierarchical leadership, they rely on emergent leadership which is not tied to any position but can emerge from different situations and needs on the fly. In Agile organizations, everyone is a leader. Everyone can step up and lead an initiative. If that initiative gains the interest of others, they form a team and support it. Being an Agile leader is not about positional power, but your ability to leverage the power of influence.

“Excellent Agile Leaders have four core competencies: Ability to define the vision, motivate, gain feedback, and ability to influence through themselves, others, and systems.”

Agile leaders are guides for the organization on its agile journey. Everything starts with a dream. Having a passion for something helps create energy. The ability to clearly formulate an appealing vision is the engine of change. The vision is not necessarily linked to a product or business but should be focused on the organization and its purpose.

Before chasing a vision and upending the status quo through organizational change, people should ask: what do we need to achieve? Why is it important? What major differences would it make if we achieved the change? These questions can help determine whether the vision is strong enough to leverage the discomfort caused by changing the status quo. As a test of whether team members are truly invested in the vision, they might ask: if I won the lottery tomorrow, would I still turn up at work to help my team make this vision into a reality? The stronger the vision, the higher the chance of achieving success.

You are a leader, no matter what official position you have right now. Leadership is a state of mind. Share a vision of how different your organization needs to be, and why it is important. Create a sense of urgency. Without it, no change will ever happen.

Agile Leader WheelThe second competency is the ability to motivate and give energy, which is closely related to the vision. If your team has a good vision, they will likely be self-motivated. The ‘carrot and stick’ model doesn’t work in complex environments. Instead, agile leadership builds on intrinsic motivation.

Agile leaders need to create an environment full of joy, where people can grow, and have enough autonomy to influence things. This allows them to co-create something they believe in and can be proud of. Doing something meaningful is the best motivation you can get.

The third competency of great Agile leaders is feedback – both giving and receiving. While many leaders understand how to give feedback which people can understand and use to improve themselves, great leaders are also open to hearing system-level feedback and learning from it. Giving feedback is hard, but receiving feedback is even harder. How many times have you rejected feedback from your peers, or disqualified their opinions by saying things like: “they don’t understand it”, “They don’t know all the details“, “I know better”. It’s easier that way, isn’t it?

In a VUCA world, where most of the problems involve volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, we need to build different skills. Individuals often struggle to deal with complexity or react to unpredictable and unstable business environments. To solve these issues, we need a higher level of creativity and the sorts of innovative solutions that only a team can accomplish. That’s where the ability to listen to feedback and learn from it is crucial.

The last competency is the art of influencing complex environments: specifically, to change systems, habits, support and consolidate culture. Agile leadership begins with a change of self, your judgments, values, behaviors, and style of work. Great leaders start with themselves as a role model. They change the way they show up, how they interact with others, and how they can inspire people around them to collaborate, create a team spirit, and become leaders. They can work with the entire system and influence the whole organization and its culture.

They are catalysts, creating an engaging environment with high transparency, trust and autonomy. They are good at forming teams and collaborative networks, not just working with individuals. They are efficient when dealing with complex situations and seek out different perspectives from diverse employee demographics when in search of solutions. They create inclusive environments that enhance innovations and creativity. They build trust, are not afraid to be vulnerable, and create safe-to-fail environments. Along their journey they make sure to invest in system coaching, large group facilitation skills, and agile leadership development. They help others to grow.

On top of the four competencies, Agile leaders must balance collaboration with decision-making. Even in an agile world you sometimes need to make a decision. While that’s not surprising to most managers, it’s often something which agile coaches struggle with. On the other hand, managers often struggle to collaborate and participate, while agile coaches are usually much better at it.

In an agile environment you need both decision-making and collaboration. Making decisions isn’t hard once you have a clear vision and purpose. Without that clear vision, leaders can become paralyzed by having too many options to choose from. The nature of a complex world makes many of those options look appealing. In truth, they’re all okay, but it’s impossible to know which option is the correct one without trying, inspecting, and adapting.

Again, the ability to hear feedback and learn from it is critically needed as in a VUCA world we can’t know which option is right for our team without experimenting and learning from failures. Agile leaders are also relying on two soft-skills: coaching and facilitation. Both require practice as well as the readiness and humility to step back and accept the fact that you are not an all-knowing expert. Instead, humble leaders use coaching and facilitation to help other people reflect, discuss, and decide what to do. In a complex world, a team is always faster at figuring things out, and coaching and facilitation skills will boost vital team collaboration.

In summary, leadership is a state of mind. All a leader needs to initiate a change in their organization is to have a vision. Positional power isn’t necessary because agile leaders are leveraging the power of influence. They enhance collaboration and build environments full of trust and transparency. They are catalysts. They are good at working with teams and networks, and they encourage people to take responsibility and ownership and become leaders.

When it comes to change, leaders need to change first. In time, the organization will follow.

Collaborative Environment

Speaking of creating the right environment – even in the agile world you sometimes need to make a decision. While that’s not surprising to most managers, it’s often something that agile coaches struggle with. On the other hand, managers often struggle to collaborate and participate, while agile coaches are usually much better at it. All over in an agile environment, you need them both. Decision-making and collaboration.

Agile Leader Wheel

Decision-making is not that hard once you have a clear purpose of what you like to achieve. But without a clear vision, there are so many options to choose from and the nature of the complex world makes many of them looking good, they all are ok, but it’s impossible to know which one of the right ones, without trying, inspecting, and adapting. And again, the ability to hear feedback and learn from it is critically needed. As in a VUCA world we can’t know which option is the right one, all we can do about it is to experiment and learn from failures. Fail fast, learn fast. There are environments where people react well to what I’ve just said. They understand that it’s better to know you are not going in the right direction sooner than later, they work in short iterations, experiments and get open and honest feedback regularly. They know it’s better to return after a week than when the entire delivery is done in a year from now. Those environments are already agile, they have high trust and are neither afraid of transparency nor failure.

But there are environments where people react with frustration on my sentence. “What do you mean by failing?” they ask. “We can’t fail here!” they say and you can sense the fear and stress growing in the space. “We would be fired if we fail.”.  And I’m not surprised. They are living in a different mindset, where they still believe the world is predictable and the business problems can be analyzed, planned, and solutions delivered accordingly. They try to pretend that unpredictability doesn’t exist and that the world is not complex. Just analyze, plan, and do it. That’s it. And all the difficulty is in how to manage it. That’s a traditional mindset and if you like to change it, and increase the agility in a space, you need to start with increasing trust and transparency. Without it there is no real collaboration happening.

In collaborative environments, there are two soft skills needed – coaching and facilitation. You might never be as good at them as professional coaches and professional facilitators are, but be able to use them and help people to raise their awareness about the situation and have an effective conversation and collaborate better is always useful.

Finally agile is a change. Change of the way of working, change of culture and mindset. You can address it at three different levels – changing yourself, through your own behaviors and habits. Becoming a role model. In my mind, this is the most powerful change. Leaders need to change first, the organization will follow. Secondly, you can change the way we work by implementing different frameworks and practices. Thirdly, you can influence the organization and the system level and change the culture and social system.

Emergent Leadership

Agile organizations are collaborative, creative, and adaptive networks. They are like living organisms, operating on different principles. They naturally flatten the hierarchical structure, making the Org chart quite unimportant. They are based on autonomy, self-organization, and empowerment, leveraging the power of self-organization and instead of hierarchical leadership, they rely on emergent leadership which is not tight to any position but can emerge from different situations and needs on the fly. In Agile organization everyone is a leader. Everyone can take a step and take over an initiative. If that initiative gains the interest of others, they form a team and support it. The radical transparency takes care of feedback and corrects any ideas which are not supporting the overall purpose we are all trying to achieve.

And here is the reason why traditional organizations are generally afraid of loosening the fixed positional power structures and giving teams autonomy. They are often scared of emergent leadership and I’m not surprised by that. In order to make it work you need to have a collaborative culture with high trust, transparency and safety, and strong evolutionary purpose which creates alignment among different parts of your organization so they are heading towards the same direction. Without a clear purpose, everything might look like a good idea worth of trying and higher autonomy usually only creates chaos, while strong purpose helps people to test their ideas by asking a simple question “If we do that, how does it going to help to get closer to the desired state defined by the purpose?” and if it doesn’t we don’t do it and figure out something else which will help us to get there. Radical transparency will allow any initiative to be tested by the crowd and filter weak ideas already before they start. The safe to fail environment encourages people to take over the responsibility and come up with their own ideas. Finally, the collaborative environment will support good ideas. In an agile organization, nothing is fixed. Sometimes I came up with an idea and others form a team around it, next time I join the initiative as a team member. Leadership is emergent and structure liquid.

Now, do you need it? That’s up to you to decide. It all depends on the overall business environment and the challenges you need to work on. Are they predictable and repetitive? A fixed structure will help you to be faster. Are they unpredictable and hard to plan? Are you regularly facing the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) challenges? Then more flexible structures with emergent leadership will be necessary to crack the challenges and be successful in nowadays constantly changing world.

Journal of Business Agility – Emergence

Recently I received a nice magazine in my mailbox, the Journal of Business Agility – Emergence. If you are looking for stories from different organizations, inspiration from agile leaders, I would recommend you to subscribe to it. Businesses Agility Institute is known for high-quality content conferences, and the Emergence magazine is a good example of very good curated content. So what caught my attention from this first issue of the magazine?

Budget planning: Prioritization – Capacity – Funding

I start with the first article where Jardena London shares her insights about Budget planning. It’s so much close to what I experienced as a Director running a software organization. “Stop talking about budget and capacity until you prioritize the outcomes you want across the organization. Even the high-level strategic goals need to be put in order.” So many organizations are unable to focus and try to push more things without a conversation about priorities. Once ordering is done “Start by planning capacity by teams, it’s way easier than planning for individuals. You may find that your current team structure no longer serves the needs of your portfolio, so you’ll have to tweak it, maybe add/ remove team.” On my journey, I learned that working with teams is so much easier than trying to plan everything with individuals. From the organizational perspective, working with individuals is too detailed and all different irregularities made it too fuzzy and unpredictable. I can also relate to this note: “Don’t plan out the year, plan the now.” In the current VUCA world, the yearly planning cycles feels outdated and unrealistic. I still remember when we went away from estimations and how enlightening it was. However, when I speak about it now, many people are almost freaking out. How can you plan your capacity without it, they ask. “When we estimate hours, we miss all kinds of variables like task switching cost, administrative time, and buffer time. We spend energy trying to get more precision in the output than we have accuracy for in the input.” Instead, in an agile environment, we focus on forecasting how much teams can produce in a short iteration. “With the same number of people, capacity can change over time. Improvements to capability and technology can impact capacity. Capacity is great for forecasting and planning.” But it’s still a concept very hard to accept not only by finance departments but also by the teams. Finally, “Once you have prioritized and planned capacity, and you’re ready to go, allocate funding. This is the very last thing we do, allowing money to be free and flexible as long as possible.” Agile is about flexibility and the ability to be change responsive. “Decoupling prioritization, capacity and funding can breathe new life into budget planning, alleviating the difficulty for employees and improving outcomes for the organization.”

Fact Sheet: The State of Business Agility in 2020

For those who like facts, numbers, and charts, there is a summary of the State of Business Agility report. “In 2020 we saw a significant increase in business agility globally. Compared to last year, we have seen more organizations commencing their business agility journey, and those on the journey report greater progress.” It’s no surprise for me, as I’m getting the same message from organizations, but it’s still good to have it confirmed with data. And it’s also no surprise that “Leadership continues to be the common theme amongst all transformational challenges.” I can see that in most of the organizations. Boards and executives are struggling with a core understanding of agility beyond practices, processes, and frameworks. Their experience with business agility is still very limited. The good news is, that there are many inspirational stories and use-cases covering every spectrum of organizational function, but still looking for an agile organization is a tough job. When I was writing my new book The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence I was bringing in some of those pioneers to share their insights in a short story. We need more stories about the successful agile. We need more insights from their journeys. That’s the only way how to make business agility more accessible for leaders and organizations. If you are looking for three tips where to start, the report brings you three tips: “Organizations who reported higher ratings in these three characteristics also report higher overall business agility and associated benefits: 1. Encouraging a culture of learning and experimentation, 2. funding business outcomes rather than specific work outputs or projects, and 3. aligning work to customer-centric value streams.” Very true. Experiment, learn from feedback and deliver value. Looks very simple, but it’s unfortunately very hard to do in some organizations.

The agile journey of Scrum Alliance

I was watching the Scrum Alliance journey for several years, and I’m very proud of how they changed and the experiments they were courageous to take. Living the Scrum values is never simple, and being agile is a journey. “The Scrum Alliance revolution – beginning with reflection, continuing through a complete rebuild of the organization’s working methods, and ending in a revitalization of public perception.” That’s easy to be said, but hard to be done. “Before the self-organization process, Scrum Alliance had multiple departments with multiple part-time scrum teams. Afterward, the structure had been simplified to six cross-functional and cross-departmental scrum teams.” Once the change was implemented as a trainer I could see immediate value to be created every sprint. How interesting change from all the years before, where value delivery was much slower. “By changing the internal structures of Scrum Alliance, Melissa and Howard had also changed attitudes, operational standards, and revitalized the ethos of the entire organization.” It’s great to read about successes but equally important is to read about things that didn’t go so smoothly. Being agile is a journey and this article is showing the journey with all the transparency and honesty. “Most importantly, Melissa and Howard have built an organization that strives every day to practice what it preaches and embody the values and principles of Business Agility” and that’s something you don’t see every day.

And there is more…

Stories from leaders, experiences shared by practitioners. That’s all that we currently need on our agile journey as a society. Agile is not anymore a different project management method. For long ago it left the basement where the IT department was closed. It’s changing the way how organizations operate, and how they do their business. The topics of Agile Organization, Agile Leadership, Agile HR, Agile Finance, and Business Agility are everywhere. There are schools applying agile values and principles, there are governments changing their way of working. Agile is everywhere. The new generation is different, they don’t want to be told what to do, they are asking for higher flexibility and autonomy, they require freedom to choose from where they are going to work and how they deliver the value. Some organizations already figured it out and started accommodating the change. Others are picking up. “The intention of business agility is to create an organization best able to serve its customer, no matter what the future brings.” That last part – no matter what the future brings – is in my mind the most important. Imagine an organization that is flexible and fast responsive, so it is ready for any situation. What else could you wish for succeeding in the VUCA world, right?

Subscribe for Emergence Journal and get a 10% discount using “agileprague” promo code.

Barriers of Agility

In most of the surveys about barriers of agility in organizations, you learn that the top three places are culture, structure, and leadership. There is no surprise. Organizations were designed for a different world where you can analyze the situation, plan what you are going to do, cascade the goals through the organization, and deliver it accordingly with minimum change requests, simply for the predictable world. The problem is that in the last decades the world has become less predictable and changes were more frequent, the VUCA challenges overtake our everyday life reality and the organizations realized they are too slow to respond. Like dinosaurs thousands of years ago. Change is inevitable. Analyzing, planning, and following the plan is not an option anymore.

Innovations, creativity, and flexibility are new norm and organizations which can create environments where teams are self-organized, collaborate on maximizing the business value, and co-creating the organizational goals are taking over positions in the Fortune 100 list. Most of the big corporations are still in the cage of the old-world reality. They optimize for speed. But speed is not that important asset anymore as going fast in the wrong direction doesn’t lead anywhere. Instead, we need flexible environments optimized for creativity. Thinking about flexibility, the organizational structure needs to change to allow it. Departments focused on competences or components, not business value, is meaningless. They kill creativity. Hierarchy keeps responsibility by the managers and prevents people from taking ownership and decide themselves. Again, it kills creativity.

Culturally the traditional organizations are leaning towards competing over collaborating, and controlling over creating. The practices of detailed positions, reward systems, performance reviews, and individual goals and objectives are keeping the organizations in competing and controlling quadrants.

Finally, the leadership needs to change significantly. Traditional organizations were expecting leaders to be Experts or Achievers. Agile organizations need Catalysts. They need leaders who are visionary, purpose-driven, are able to see the business and organizations from different perspectives. They enhance collaboration and are good at building teams and networks. They search for win-win solutions, are good coaches, and helping others to grow. They support running experiments and use failure as learning.

All over we can say that Agile Organization needs different leaders, cultures, and structures. You don’t have to start with changing all of them at once, but sooner or later such change is inevitable. The fewer barriers you give agility on the way, the more likely the frameworks, methods, and practices make a difference and help you to be successful in the VUCA world.

Autonomy

Autonomy is a topic that is in my mind for a while. How come that in some environments it’s so simple to let it grow and some others are so much struggling with it. The more I think about it, the more I feel it’s about trust or fear of losing position, power, or comfort. And environments with no trust are not places where agile is much successful. In order to allow autonomy in even a small group as a development team, the trust must be there. I’ve seen the companies which were struggling to allow teams to choose their own name. “What if they choose something offending?” Like really? Now if you deal with such low trust, there is no way Scrum can work. I’ve seen organizations where they track when people are in the office and have so many restrictions that their computers become useless. “What if they don’t work and play games? Or not coming to work?” Isn’t that funny? The more restrictions you create, the more time people spend on breaking them or the more demotivated they are. Neither will help you to create successful products.

“Trust is prerequisite, transparency enabler, and purpose of the driving force for autonomy.”

Building trust takes time. Start small, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Ask yourself what is the worth thing which can happen. Ask what are those people around you scared  and how can you help them to feel more confident. The second ingredient in the mix is transparency. Being transparent about what needs to be done, what the success looks like, and what are the things we want to avoid is crucial. People learn by doing. Be transparent with the feedback. Perfection is not useful, it’s all about learning from small failures. Finally, the third ingredient in the mix is a purpose. Autonomy without a purpose only creates chaos. The higher the autonomy, the stronger the purpose needs to be to glue it together. To give everyone the same goal, belonging, identity, the reason for why they are there.

Imagine a kid’s camp. The Red group is defending the castle, the Blues are trying the take it over. Kids are naturally forming small autonomous teams, making their own decisions on the fly. They share information as they move forward. They don’t need any detailed instructions, any KPIs, any manager to give them process. All they have is a strong purpose. Your organization is not any different. Trust is a prerequisite, transparency enabler, and purpose of the driving force for autonomy. Building such an environment requires a portion of agile leadership.

Five books every Agile leader should read before they start Agile transformation

To continue my with my book recommendations (check Five books every ScrumMaster should read and Five books every Product Owner should read), I have several books here, I would recommend every Agile Leader and manager in Agile Organization to read before they start Agile transformation. It’s a mix which will help you to understand Agile Leadership, Agile Organization, it’s structure, design, and culture and allow you to adapt to the different leadership style. Enjoy reading 🙂

  1. Niels Pflaeging – Organize for Complexity: How to Get Life Back Into Work to Build the High-Performance Organization is about complexity and work – and about how to deal productively with both. A condensed introduction to the theory and practice of organizational high performance. A manifesto for contemporary leadership and profound transformation in organizations of all kinds. It is “practically theoretic”, featuring cutting-edge insight. It proposes new language and thinking for a new way of work and organizations.
  2. Frederic Laloux – Reinventing Organizations is a must. The way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Survey after survey shows that a majority of employees feel disengaged from their companies. The epidemic of organizational disillusionment goes way beyond Corporate America-teachers, doctors, and nurses are leaving their professions in record numbers because the way we run schools and hospitals kills their vocation. Government agencies and nonprofits have a noble purpose, but working for these entities often feels soulless and lifeless just the same. All these organizations suffer from power games played at the top and powerlessness at lower levels, from infighting and bureaucracy, from endless meetings and a seemingly never-ending succession of change and cost-cutting programs.
  3. Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS is looking at the organizational design from a different perspective. Rather than asking, “How can we do agile at scale in our big complex organization?” a different and deeper question is, “How can we have the same simple structure that Scrum offers for the organization, and be agile at scale rather than do agile?” This profound insight is at the heart of LeSS. In Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS, Craig Larman and Bas Vodde have distilled over a decade of experience in large-scale LeSS adoptions towards a simpler organization that delivers more flexibility with less complexity, more value with less waste, and more purpose with less prescription.
  4. The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power is about FREEDOM, POWER, and CHOICE. Leadership is innate. The Responsibility Process proves it. The Responsibility Process is a natural mental pattern that helps you process thoughts about taking or avoiding responsibility. How you navigate it determines whether you are leading toward meaningful results or just marking time. This book gives you precision tools, practices, and leadership truths to navigate The Responsibility Process and lead yourself and others to freedom, power, and choice.
  5. Leadership and Self Deceptions shows how most personal and organizational problems are the result of a little-known problem called self-deception. Through an entertaining and highly instructive story, Leadership and Self-Deception shows what self-deception is, how people get trapped in it, how it undermines personal achievement and organizational performance, and- most importantly the surprising way to solve it.

BONUS:

Finally, there is a bonus book which I wrote a few years after this blogpost 🙂 The Agile Leader: Leveraging the Power of Influence Book published in December 2020 will help you to unleash your agile leadership potential and guide your entire organization toward agility. It’s a great overview of concepts for managers, directors, executives, and entrepreneurs―anyone, regardless of position, who’s ready to take ownership, challenge the status quo, and become a true agile leader. See more at https://greatagileleader.com.

Difference between manager and leader

Leader and manager, what is the difference? Is there any? People are often mixing these terms up so let’s make it more clear.

Leader- LeaderFirstly, managers shall be leaders. That’s where the confusion is most likely coming from. But leaders are not just managers, leader is not a position, anyone can be a leader. In an Agile organization where hierarchy is becoming less important, we take more focus on leadership than management. There is no authority given to a leader. They gain it by their actions and behaviors and by their service to the people around them. Leaders could be anywhere in your organization and their power grows by respect of others. Managers, on the other hand, are often associated with decision making, and certain power which must be given to them.

Leaders are key to any Agile organization. The more leadership is in the organization, the more likely the mindset will change and the Agile transformation will become successful.

“Leaders need to change first. The organization will follow. “

Don’t wait for anyone, you are the leader you can change today. Agile is not about practices, rules, or processes. Agile is about the different way of thinking, different way of approaching things, different mindset. And it’s all in your hands. You are the leader.

What is Agile Leadership

What is agile leadership about? How would you define it, how would you explain it? Those are just a few questions people are asking these days.

Agile leaders are able to inspire others, creates and communicate an appealing vision or a higher purpose which motivates organization and would constantly be looking for better ways of working through feedback. It’s about being inclusive, support others on their leadership journey. Being open to new ideas, experiments and innovations. Support creativity. Be able to garden the right mindset and creates cultures based on collaboration. Agile leader is a coach and good listener.

Agile leadership is not about tools, practices or methodologies. It’s an ability to look at the organization from the system perspective, understand system dynamics, be able to get awareness about what’s happening, embrace it, understand it and become an integral part of the system and finally be able to act upon and influence it with coaching, and initiate a change.

Agile Leadership Model

New management paradigm is about collaboration and trust, decentralization, continuous adaptation and flexibility, cooperation and teamwork. From the static management in the industrial era, we shifted to strategic management in last twenty years of the last century and moved quickly into the dynamic management which tries to keep up the speed with modern constantly changing, complex world. That’s the world which critically needs agile leadership as anything else is not flexible enough to deal with nowadays challenges. Companies need more creativity, collaboration, and innovations – simply agility. That’s the way how to be successful. That’s the way how to achieve their goals. That’s the way how to survive and don’t become new dinosaurs who are so huge, slow and inflexible that they eventually disappear from the world.

Agile Leaders are the beginning of modern management

In order to achieve success at the organizational level, we need to start management talent development program to create leaders who will help to grow a company, make quick decisions and stay ahead of others. Modern leadership style is no longer applying the traditional model of the “leader-follower”, i.e. one decides and the other executes orders. Nowadays, when most employees are from the category of creative workers and the company is looking for innovation and creative ideas to stay competitive, the leader-leader model is a more effective one, where the leaders’ main goal is to help others to be successful leaders. What is modern Agile management or Agile leadership about?

Excellent Agile Leader has four core competencies: Ability to define the vision, motivate, gain feedback, and ability to influence through themselves, others and system.

The ability to formulate a vision is the engine of change and motivation. A vision is not necessarily linked to product and business but should be focused on the organization and its purpose. The second competency is the ability to motivate and give the energy. It is a competence closely related to the vision. If you have a good vision, it motivates itself. Agile leadership builds on so-called internal motivation to strengthen the autonomy of individuals and teams. The third of Agile leader’s competences is feedback. Feedback is DNA component for Agile Organization together with openness and transparency. The art of getting system-level feedback is critical for the leader. The last is the art of influencing complex environments. Change things, people and their behavior, support and consolidate culture. Agile leadership begins with a change of self, your judgments, values, and behavior, style of work. Great leaders start with themselves as a role model, to change the way they show up, how they interact with others, and how they can inspire people around them to collaborate, create a team spirit, and become leaders. They are capable of working with the entire system and influence the whole organization and its culture.

Agile Leader-Wheel

Agile Leader Wheel also defines four supporting competencies to help leaders define the right approach. When is it better to decide and when decisions can be delegated and it’s better to collaborate. At the same time, when it’s better to take a role of facilitator and when start coaching. We do not talk that much about coaching individuals, which of course may be useful, but coaching the whole system – teams and organizations as a whole. Excellent Agile Leaders have not been born as Agile Leaders, but they are constantly looking for new ways to get better and to gain and strengthen the above-mentioned competencies.