Back in March 2017, MAC published an article titled “Establishing Agile Leadership Practices: equipping leaders to deal with fast and continuous change in a digital economy”. This was broadly premised around the need for leaders to adapt their approach and paradigms, rethinking how they engage people, plan, delegate, and shape their organisations for the future. It also explored how leaders needed to fundamentally change the way they do things in order to have a meaningful impact on the direction and performance of their business and its people.
In the article we unpacked, what we believed and from our experience, five key tenets of agile leadership:
- Building shared purpose: a key skill for the team leader is to be able to build a sense of shared purpose that provides clarity on why the team is doing what it is tasked to do, who they are solving for and what they need to deliver.
- Orientating towards business results: a leader’s ability to make strong links to the activities of individuals and how they ultimately need to, should, or are impacting a key business result.
- Shaping collaborative journeys: it is key for leaders to foster this empathy and model the ability to articulate their journey, by truly listening to the experience of all those involved in the process and leveraging the collective and diverse capabilities in the team.
- Delivering and learning in multi-skilled teams: it is important for leaders to create the space and provide the coaching to encourage and facilitate the right thinking, listening, and mutual appreciation between team members to learn from each other and solution together.
- Evolving through experimentation: key to this is a shift towards an action learning orientation, and the ability to develop and test prototypes to drive continuous improvement. Most importantly, perhaps, is the discipline to quickly recognise and let go of things that are not working, and to answer the question around what you, as a leader and a business, need to unlearn in order to create the desired space for new thinking and new approaches.
As organisations rapidly pivot towards working virtually, where teams are no longer co-located and customer journeys and fulfillment are delivered virtually or through partners, so to do Agile Leadership principles need to be embedded. Traditional ways of managing, defining strategies, and developing innovative solutions are not meeting the demands of a world where uncertainty and continuous change are the new normal.
Leaders are having to adapt their approach and paradigms, rethink how they engage their teams, plan, delegate, and shape their organisations for the future.
For this, shared purpose is paramount; when individuals are working alone, the ability to make the right judgment call that is directionally correct will come down to the clarity of purpose. Choices will inform actions and actions taken will yield the targeted results. Knowing what is important for the team, organisation and the customer is critical. The ability to leverage the skills and capabilities across the team and co-create plans and journeys that leverage skills and deliver the results once again, is a critical success factor. Diversity and the ability to galvanise remote and diverse teams will set high performance teams apart from mediocre operators.
Finally, the need to foster a culture of experimentation and actively prototype is more important than ever before. None of us have been in a world that has radically changed, so much, so quickly, as Charles Darwin said, “it’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change”. Experimentation and leveraging the learnings will ensure future resilience.
As I reflect on these points above, I cannot help but to think on how, even more so today than back in March 2017, the principles hold true.