I like to compare all learning experiences with journeys: journeys that you start by external push or on your own initiative, that you continue on and see where it’s leading you, journeys that never end. Like any other learning journey to mastery, the journey on the path of Agile Leadership is infinite and never ending, always challenging, continuously asking for reflection and improvement. Perhaps even more than others.
I describe the endless learning journey on the path of Agile Leadership with a spiral, that comes across the same regions again and again, with new viewpoints, experiences, insights, and learnings.
In this text I introduce you to the picture of the Agile Leadership Spiral and explain some elements involved. This text is to be seen as a starting point, it will be refined and clarified more in the time to come.
1- Start with Yourself
You start your Agile Leadership journey with yourself. At first sight, this demand sounds egocentric, but isn’t meant to be. Not at all.
To best serve others, you need to be in best shape yourself. You need to be steady and strong, reliable and full of resources. That’s why you start with yourself.
Know your purpose
In the context of sense making you need to relate your purpose with the purpose of the surrounding, the context, the organization you are in. So: know your purpose!
Set your intention
You can only be successful where you intent to be and where you are following your internal motivators and drivers. Get clear with yourself about being on the journey and going ahead. Clearly say yes.
Be role model
When leading you are expected to be a role model. Work on yourself and be prepared that someone might start following you and let you lead them!
Further on, you can only teach others in an authentic way what you experienced yourself and fully embrace now.
2- Relationships: me and you
Following the Agile Leadership Spiral you focus next on your relationships to other people and you start with one at a time.
Nimble still complex
You recognize that this smallest form of a relationship between people involves two, so it is two complex systems interacting. You see that setting up, leading, maintaining this relationship is a very challenging task if taken seriously, if taken on for success.
No matter how big your organization, no matter how many people you are leading: leadership relationships are always one-on-one or they can be built up on one-on-one-relationships. All more complex team or organizational teams of teams-structures go back down to one-on-one relationships.
And they are bidirectional: not only are you leading a person, the other one is also leading you. How does this thought change your perspective?
Applying Agile values and principles you see that all people are of high value and you build your relationships on respect and courage. There are relationships that are closer, others are looser. There are people that you like to talk to and be surrounded, there are others that you experience as challenging. Still you highly value your connections and you aim for having your relationships on eye level.
Set your borders
Nevertheless there are situations when you have to clarify your borders and define your limits, so that you can be safe in your space as needed.
3- Teams: stronger together
We live in a complex world, we live in the VUCA world. I assume you know the abbreviation of volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. (Or check it out in the internet.) Best way to strive is to work in autonomous, cross-functional teams, small enough to remain nimble, large enough to complete significant work in short period of time. We need teams to be stronger together.
You need to know how to collaborate with others for success, you need to teach to collaborate together, so that your team can strive, so that the teams you serve can grow. This includes communication skills, clarity on team decision making authority and strategies, approaches for giving feedback and conflict handling.
Autonomy and Alignment
So that collaboration of the team sets up into the desired direction, you must create and communicate a common understanding and generate alignment on the team and overall vision and goals. This relates to motivation of all, hearing all voices and inviting all contributions.
Under the surface
By now, everybody knows the iceberg model and its picture that lots more is going on under the surface of the ocean… in teams that are the team dynamics: we are all looking for the spots we fit in, how we can relate best to others, how to perform together and how to perceive our lives together as great. Of these dynamics you need to be aware, recognize them, work on them, fail, get up and try again and again and again.
Finding the Me in all this We
To fully commit to the team goal individuals need to see how it related and fits to their own goals and purpose. You help people balance both and work on them together.
4- Organizations: leading the change
Most organizations find themselves in major transformations to make their people awesome, better serve their customers and users with products they love, respond to the fast and surprising changes in their markets, and innovate for the future to become sustainable.
“Structure eats Culture for Lunch.“ (Who said this first?)
Take care of your structure and set up for your organizational change. Whatever you try to accomplish, if the environment isn’t ready and resisting the change, nothing will happen for good and the transformation initiative will fail in the long run.
“Culture follows structure.” (Larman’s Laws of Organizational Behavior)
So, culture comes next: the change will not sustain if the organization’s culture does not follow the structure. Focus on it. Work on it. Live it: as an individual and in your team!
The organization cannot change alone on its own account. Organizations need leadership, change needs leadership. Which leadership style fits yourself in the culture of the new organization? Which leadership style does your organization need from you?
You cannot do the change alone. Clarify on your allies and build a team that leads and drives the organizational change. Live your roles as role models, individually and as a team!
Again in the picture of the spiral, the journey is never over and you will start all over again, with a new starting point. You will take all your knowledge and skills into the next section of your journey, you build up on them, and use them in the next context.
I have plenty ideas about aspects for the model if the Agile Leadership Spiral to add, to emphasize, to point out, to ask and I will go over the model again and again, giving more detail in each iteration.
I’d really appreciate your feedback, input, ideas and thoughts, comments, critiques, experiences, and inspiring conversations with you! I am curious where this journey will lead.