Authored by: Dr Renate Scherrer, MD at JvR Consulting Psychologists
In a world where the only constant seems to be change, organisations are continuously challenged to operate simpler, smarter and faster.
Many put a lot of effort and cost into adopting what is believed to be ‘agile principles and mindsets’ – for example creating a flatter structure, renovating to fashion open-plan offices, implementing standardised ways of working, and developing or obtaining enabling technology.
The Leadership Challenge
Agile organisations are both stable and dynamic. They are customer-centric, ever-evolving and open to change.
Implementing agile practices often call for employees to rearrange as cross-functional or smaller self-managing teams that can autonomously decide priorities and allocate resources in a decentralised way.These teams are also progressively multi-generational and likely working off-site.
This provides leaders with the challenge of aligning their people to the overall purpose and vision of the organisation in a meaningful and enabling manner, keeping them engaged and connected, whilst still delivering on the organisational intent.In order to do this, leaders have to start serving their people rather than directing and controlling them.
It also implies that leaders have to increasingly share the task of leadership with their teams who become involved in and takes ownership of making the decisions that will affect themselves and their work.
Becoming Agile is a Balancing Act
Before leaders can assist others and the organisation on the agile journey, they have to equip themselves first.
They often need to let go of old paradigms and transform their thinking and ways of being. In essence, leaders need to be agile before they can lead agile.
Being agile is about developing one’s inner agility. It is taking the best of seemingly different and opposite characteristics and combining them in a balanced approach to position for maximum impact:
Switching on agility
Leading agile is being able to move on from the self and focusing on others in order to support, prepare and empower them to go agile.
This requires from the leader to build diverse teams who are authorised to deliver on agreed goals and role-modelling the expected behaviour that will support healthy agility.
Key behavioural messages these leaders need to embed in words, actions and business practices are:
As with most things in life, there is unfortunately no silver bullet or magic blueprint available and each leader has to bravely navigate this uncertain, mine-filled landscape in the effort to become agile. There will be hiccups and glitches along the way, but the agile leader views this as continuous training to get better rather than trying again and failing again.
As Thomas Edison put it: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
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