What is Agile Leadership?

Leaders are looking for ways to deal with relentless market change.  Uncertainty bred by terrorism, major political changes like Brexit and the new Trump administration in the U.S., and shifting regulatory landscapes only adds to massive change pressures.

What is Agile Leadership? By Mike Russell

How can leaders navigate through the storms of change? Interest is expanding rapidly in business agility, agile, lean startup, and variations as possible answers.  Early focus in these areas was on product processes and smaller entities like teams or startups.

As focus spreads to larger entities and entire companies, a natural question is: what is “agile leadership”? How can leaders both be agile examples themselves and lead toward agility?

There is a simple answer.

Agile leadership is good leadership with a “wrong until right” mindset.

Good leadership is still the same from the C.E.O.S.’s perspective:

  • Customers still want legendary products, services, and relationships.
  • Employees still want a fulfilling work environment. Knowledge workers still thrive on autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
  • Owners/shareholders still want enhanced value, enduring over time.
  • Significant other stakeholders – those interested in long-term relationships – still want a spirit of shared responsibility.

What has changed: leaders can no longer choose a path forward with confidence that the path will be completely successful. Relentless change has reduced or eliminated that ability.

Leaders must now adopt and promote a “wrong until right” mindset in their organizations. (see my other articles and book Wrong Until Right – How to Succeed Despite Relentless Change for more detail)

Agile leadership at the company level is making progress but still in infancy from an adoption point of view.

  • The agile movement has roots mostly in software and at the team level. It has since expanded in an attempt to address enterprise agile, yet still mostly resonates in technical or product areas. Many executives still believe agile is for “IT.”
  • There is increasing interest in leveraging startup methods in existing businesses and beyond startups. Lean startup conferences are beginning to add significant agenda time to adoption beyond startups. However, startup mindsets are not easy to adopt in companies built for stability and minimizing change.
  • The first business agility-focused conference (Business Agility 2017) was just held last February in New York.
  • Interest in professional groups like the Agile Leadership Network is also growing.

Agile leadership is needed and gaining ground, but still far from mainstream.

That begs the next question: how does one become a good agile leader? Training companies and others smell the opportunity and are beginning to roll out “agile leadership” training, but what is a good path?


More on that in the next insight …


By Mike Russell