Effektiveres Lernen in Dienstleistungsunternehmen
25.05.2018

Agile Leadership – just another new leadership style or more than just a buzzword?

In recent weeks, the term "Agile Leadership" emerged over and over again - and it was discussed very differently. For example, some critical reactions were “again a new leadership style? What is that about?" and "do we really need another leadership style? There are already a lot!” On the opposite some others praised agile leadership as an universal remedy and as a recipe for success. Therefore, some described the agile leader as a slob or circus clown, whose laissez faire attitude creates a kindergarten atmosphere. Whereas some others saw the agile leader as a supporter and demander, who figuratively speaking would prepare his/her guests not only a great party, but also make sure that the next event was even better. Another visualisation of an agile leader was a strong captain in the surf, who has his/her ship under control due to clear announcements and by looking forward. Or again, a negative picture was the narrow-minded administrator who scrutinises every achievement and takes the carrot-and-stick approach. But all those depictions just lead to confusion. So what is an "agile leader" and what is so special about it? And is it even desirable to be agile as a leader?

Leadership = targeted influencing of people

If you take a look at the literature on leadership, it becomes clear what leadership is about: as a leader, the main task is to specifically influence people. But what is the goal of leadership? The aspiration is to have satisfied employees who go to work healthy, relaxed, rich and happy, since it has already been recognized that healthy and satisfied employees can perform better than dissatisfied, stressed and sick people. Depending on the task, different leadership behaviours may be required to support the employee in the best way.

Agility & Leadership: Succeed with High Potentials under uncertainty

If a result depends on how the employees design it and further if neither the result nor the individual work steps are clear from the outset, then a leadership is required that corresponds to the principles of the agile manifesto. The human resource (from individual employees, teams, and managerial staff to customers) is just as important as the company’s products or services. It is important to support group processes and decision-making processes as well as individual tasks. Moreover, it is necessary to focus on the result and to synchronize with stakeholders, customers, and the team, in order to develop a common vision. Finally, the aim is "to do the right thing”.

However, this does not mean that managing and formulating clear expectations on the employee take a back seat. Quite the contrary, clear processes and tools, transparent documentation, and planning can create team security and avoid miscommunication. Among other things this includes project controlling, to make sure that a project is carried out within planned time and budget. However, control does not have to be negative. If everyone knows what the applicable criterions for assessments are and if employees regularly receive feedback, this can promote safety and confidence. This means that the manager needs to be able to address individual concerns and needs to be able to empathise in different perspectives.

The agile leader: forward thinker, host, coach, mentor, and manager in one?

Agile leadership is not something completely new; it still has a lot to do with the targeted influence of employees. Rather, it is important that the manager shows behaviour that achieves the greatest possible success in the respective situation. For example, with dissatisfied customers and rising costs the manager, host, and coach roles can be in demand at the same time. And the manager as a thought leader for example can give the team a direction if they themselves do not yet have clear ideas. This requires an agile mindset, an awareness of what success is, as well as the reflection of one's own behaviour, thinking, and feeling. Not to forget it also requires having fun by working with people and to strive for excellence and further develop it.

How can that work? At QualityMinds, we allocate the different roles in larger teams, so that they can be better implemented. Further it is a very important to us to live with an open and transparent leadership. For example, every employee can join team lead discussions, if they are interested in it. Or there are accessible management and salary boards. Either way, is there any reason why an employee should not have a good idea concerning shaping leadership and the direction of the company?

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