Agile Leadership

Agile Leadership In Turbulent Times


In the 1990s, software developers were getting frustrated. They found that the needs of their clients often changed during the development process. What they thought would be the final product needed to go through time-consuming revisions. In 2001, a group of developers introduced Agile as a way to streamline this process.

Why Change Is Difficult to Navigate

Your brain is a predictive machine. It constantly processes information about the world, trying to guess what will happen next. During seasons of calm, events unfold in ways you expect. You can follow a daily schedule, make your appointments and deliver products on time.

You feel surprises in the limbic system, one of the oldest neural structures in the evolutionary chain. This system deals with unexpected stresses in the same way as an encounter with a dangerous animal. Your fight-or-flight response flips on, making it difficult to make rational decisions. Many leaders stick to ineffective strategies in times of crisis because it gives them the simple comfort of familiarity.

From Assembly Lines to Agile Thinking

Assembly lines transformed manufacturing in the early 20th century. A step-by-step process would lead to a consistent product on the other end. It is still an effective methodology if you know the exact results you need.

However, the landscape is quite different for modern entrepreneurs. Technology changes quickly with new devices coming online every day. Employees’ needs and expectations have transformed in the wake of the pandemic. Consumer trends also change at a faster pace as people receive updates on social media.

Rather than resisting shifting expectations, Agile thinking acknowledges that change is the norm. If you can embrace change in unusual times, you will be ahead of competitors relying on older strategies that used to work.

Marks of Agile Leadership

Open versus closed thinking: A leader with a closed mentality assumes that the status quo is the way things are always supposed to be. An Agile leader knows that processes work until they stop working. Such changes do not represent failure but the need for reevaluation and growth.

Horizontal versus vertical leadership: Agile leaders depend on their team members to make projects happen. They know the gifts of their employees and assign tasks that use them. This horizontal arrangement gives more ownership to team members than a top-down structure.

Adaptive versus fixed processes: In computer programming, the Agile process breaks the final product into small segments. Each team member holds responsibility for a few of those pieces. When the team must address changes, they can bundle them into the process at a more manageable scale. Regular reflection and reporting allow the team to embrace changes before the project moves too far forward.

Putting Agile Leadership into Practice

Embracing Agile leadership involves a shift in the way you understand your organization. If you are looking to adopt an Agile model at your business, you do not have to do this work alone. At Productivity Intelligence Institute, we seek to help entrepreneurial leaders acquire the tools for success in a changing landscape. Feel free to reach out for a consultation.