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What is a true Agile Leader

  • Agility

Today, I wanted to talk to you about my vision of an Agile Leader. I say “Agile” because it’s commonly used, but I could also say Teal Leader[i], because this is closest to my vision of the greatest leaders. I could also say the next generation of leaders, but it seems like another management book and marketed.

I also want to mention that – for me – Agile leaders, are not just the ones leading Agile teams, they are leaders following a philosophy, certain values, that are creating a new paradigm. They can be part of any kind of company, they can be entrepreneurs, they can be outside of any group or organization.

They are sharing values and are willing to help others. And they can do it because they have worked on themselves first.

Agile Leaders embrace certain values

Of course, there are the Agile values, from the Agile manifesto. They place people first, before the processes and the tools. It means they are ready to feel uncomfortable in their interactions with others sometimes, for the benefit of a greater purpose.

They are purpose-driven: they know their own needs and values. They are capable to link them to a cause, or the vision of the organization they work with, so they can steer everyone in one direction, that is not just self-driven.

They are willing to take risks and learn from experience. Learning is an obsession. Especially by doing and interacting with others: being her/his team or the customers. They are resilient and can embrace change easily, thanks to this skill.

They are disciplined and don’t compromise on quality: quality of the work done, quality of the collaboration, quality of their leadership… They get help when they need, they help their team when they need. They are committed to remove the barriers, the obstacles. They challenge the status quo. They are courageous and focused.

Agile leaders are here to serve

It requires them to put their ego aside sometimes, and switch back to the purpose they are following, and remember how it is strongly intertwined with the ones of the organization they work for.

This helps them see how valuable they are for their team. They are sometimes the only key to unlock obstacles, as they usually have a broader view on the systems they are in. They are in charge for bringing unknown impacts out of the shadows.

They supports their team and trust them to self-organize, to deliver value to the world. They never dictate the how. But they can help figuring it out.

I see them as gate openers. Not only do they know where they want to go, but they also have the keys in hands, to unlock things on the journey.

The soft skills of Agile leaders

I gave a few clues already but here are some of the soft skills any thriving Agile leader should have:

  • Active listening, to really connect to others and understand what’s going on, even when he/she disagrees,
  • Curiosity, to replace any judgment, foster creativity, and ask the right questions,
  • Being able to hold the space and create a trustful environment, where everyone can speak up, without fear, feel respected and heard,
  • Purpose-driven, to lead their team. Storytelling capabilities are a plus,
  • Self-aware, to be able to manage his/her own emotions and others’ and challenge biases and limiting beliefs,
  • System oriented, to have a more and more refined understanding of the several layers of impact a decision can have,
  • Solution focused, to support and challenge their team in front of problems, as a coach or as a mentor,
  • Disciplined and focused, because they must role model these skills and others, for the greatest good of the purpose they follow.

I truly believe these skills are more than necessary to move the world of work further, and bring purpose and common sense back.

[i] Teal is used in reference to the book Reinventing Organizations, from F. Laloux

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