Just like any other journey towards personal mastery, the journey towards Agile Leadership is never-ending, always challenging, always inspiring reflection and improvement.
For us, the workings and effectiveness of an Agile leader is visualized in a spiral divided into four segments: ME, YOU, TEAMS and the ORGANIZATION, representing reflection on myself, contact with counterparts, working with teams and on the organization. In their application, these four themes are repeatedly tangent, processed and enriched with new perspectives, experiences, insights, findings and goals. In this text we give an overview of the four segments:
ME – Start with yourself!
You start every journey to Agile Leadership with yourself. At first glance, this may seem egocentric, but that’s not how it’s meant. Not at all.
To best serve others, you must be in the best shape yourself. You must be stable and strong, reliable and full of resources. Therefore, you must start with yourself!
Know your purpose and goal
In the context of finding meaning and making meaning for others, you must relate your own meaning and purpose to the meaning and purpose of the context, environment, and organization. So: know your own meaning and purpose!
Clarify your success
To be successful at all, you need to be clear about what success actually means to you. Define it and measure yourself against it.
Define your intention!
You can only be successful where you intend to be and where you follow your inner motivations and drivers. Become self-aware that you are on the journey and want to continue on it. Say YES clearly.
Be a role model
As a leader, you are expected to be a role model. Work on yourself and be prepared for someone to follow who will be led by you!
If you want to teach others something authentically, it can only be what you yourself have experienced, what you yourself have fully accepted and absorbed!
Relationships: you and me
In the Agile Leadership Spiral model, we now leave the inward view and turn to other people and our connection to them. We start with one person.
Small and yet already complex
You realize that the smallest form of relationships between people is the one that involves just two people. And even this is already two complex systems interacting with each other. You realize that building the relationship with another person, managing and maintaining it is a very challenging task if taken seriously and pursued with the goal of success.
It doesn’t matter how big the organization you’re in or how many people you lead: ultimately, leadership relationships are always 1-to-1 relationships. And all more complex structures of teams or teams of teams can be traced back to 1-to-1 relationships.
Leadership in two directions
Moreover, every leadership relationship is two-way: not only do you lead the other person, but at the same time the other person leads you. How does this idea change your perspective?
At eye level
When you believe and apply Agile values and principles, you see that all people are very valuable and you build your relationships on respect and courage. Closer relationships result, while others are more casual. There are people you enjoy talking to and surrounding yourself with, while there are others with whom you find contact challenging. Yet, you value your connections and you strive to have relationships at eye level.
Set your boundaries
Still, there are situations where you need to make clear and clarify your boundaries and limitations in order to feel as safe as you need to.
Teams: strong together!
We live and work in a complex world, we live in the VUCA world. We guess you already know this abbreviation for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. (Otherwise, you can find a lot about it on the Internet, too.) The best way to thrive and succeed is through collaboration in autonomous, cross-functional teams that are small enough to be nimble, yet large enough to achieve significant success in short periods of time. We need teams to be stronger together.
You must learn to work with others to be successful, you must teach others to work together so that your team can thrive, so that your team can rise above. This includes communication skills, clarity on strategies and empowerment of team decisions, approaches to get feedback on
Autonomy and alignment
In order for the team to work together in the direction you want, you need to generate and communicate a unified understanding and shared alignment on team vision and team goals. Related to this are motivating everyone, allowing all voices, ideas, and concerns to be heard, and inviting everyone to actively participate.
Beneath the surface
These days, everyone has heard about the iceberg model and the associated image that there is much more going on beneath the surface of the ocean than you can guess from above. In teams, these are the team dynamics: everyone is looking for where they fit in, how we best relate and connect with others, how we accomplish things together, and how we make our team life great for everyone. As an Agile leader, you need to be aware of these dynamics, recognize them, work with them and on them, fail, get back up and try again, over and over.
Finding the I in the We
To fully engage with a team, each person needs to clarify on their own individual goals, relate them to the team goals, and fit them in. You help people explore, clarify and work on both of these aspects.
Organizations: leading change
Most organizations find themselves in major transformations to make everyone great with the product, to serve customers and users better through products they love, to respond to the rapid and surprising changes in their markets, and to meet the future with innovation.
“Structure eats Culture for Lunch.” (Who said this first?)
Take care of the structures and start organizational change with the structures. Whatever you want to achieve, if the environment is not ready for it and resists change, nothing deeper will change and the initiative will fail in the long run.
“Culture follows structure.” (Craig Larman’s Law of Organizational Behavior).
With that said, culture is next! Change will not be sustainable unless the culture of the organization changes accordingly. Focus on that. Work on it. Live it: as an individual and on your team!
Organizations don’t change on their own. Organizations need leadership, change needs leadership. Which leadership styles suit you in the context and culture of the new organization? What leadership style does the organization need from you?
You can’t lead change alone. Clarify your allies and build a team to lead and drive change in your organization. Fill your roles as role models, individually and also as a team!
My favorite value. Taking on the responsibility of Agile Leadership will take your courage. And it will give you even more courage back. Always be prepared to be surprised!
Back to the image of the spiral: this journey is never over, and each additional challenge you take on will take you through the same issues again, with a new starting point and the treasure of all your knowledge and experience. You will take your skills to the next stage of your journey and build on them to use and expand them in a new context.
Are you curious about how you can use the Agile Leadership Spiral to lead with agility? Do you want to learn concrete techniques to reflect and improve yourself, your Agile Leadership style? Do you want to successfully lead your employees and colleagues with agile? Do you need methods to successfully set up and accompany Agile teams? Do you want to learn more about how to lead through Agile transformation in the organization?