What Makes You an Agile Leader?

An agile leader embraces uncertainty while empowering people
A group of colleagues meet

Reviewed by Punita Dave

Agile leaders—whether in executive positions, management, team leadership, senior positions, or other roles—are spearheading innovative management styles at today's leading organizations. You may already have the qualities of an agile leader and not even know it, or maybe you're more of a traditional or aspiring leader who's ready to adapt your style. 

While a traditional command-and-control management style worked years ago, in today's fast-paced and competitive landscape, organizations must have flexible, responsive, iterative capabilities to keep up and outpace the competition. Agile leaders make it possible for teams and organizations to adopt and practice these agile capabilities.

Learn about the case for agile leadership and how to become one in Certified Agile Leader® 1, a certification course provided by experienced, Scrum Alliance-approved agile trainers. In the meantime, check out some of the top behaviors of agile leaders:

  • Navigating change and uncertainty
  • Trusting the team
  • Supporting a culture that encourages experimentation
  • Advocating for skill development

Navigating change and uncertainty

If there's one thing we've learned about the world lately, it's that there's only one certainty—uncertainty! No one could've predicted the pandemic and its economic impact or how consumers' preferences are rapidly changing as new generations become primary consumers of products and services.

As an agile leader or someone who wants to build leadership skills, you can embrace change and uncertainty and quickly pivot plans that make the most sense for customers right now, even if they don't align with what you thought the plan would be at the beginning of the year.

It's essential as an agile leader to stay ahead of the trends, watch what's happening with the competition, and be able to respond quickly if your plans no longer make sense.

Here are a few ideas for embracing change:

  • Have the team plan work only a quarter ahead of time but aligned to a long-term objective. Communicate to stakeholders that it's a flexible plan that may change.
  • Have the team review the quarterly plan with stakeholders every week or two and discuss any modifications that may need to be made based on market conditions or consumer interactions with your product or service.
  • Empower the team to make quick modifications to work.

Trusting the team

Agile teams are capable of pivoting quickly and solving complex problems independently, which ultimately supports the organization's ability to deliver customer value frequently. As someone with agile leadership skills, you can influence your organization's culture to adopt trust in these teams—trust to make decisions, solve their own problems, and respond to stakeholder and customer feedback.

Here are a few ways to learn to trust the team:

  • Support team focus, especially if the team uses the scrum framework and sprints to focus on a sprint goal.
  • Set clear expectations for your direct reports on the quality of work you want to see, then let them run with it.

Supporting a culture that encourages experimentation 

You're accountable for your team's success as a leader, so allowing for any failures or unintended results feels like a huge risk. In agile environments, teams are capable of game-changing innovations because of a culture that allows for experimentation, fully accepting that not every experiment will have satisfactory results. Therefore, the most effective teams benefit from knowing they won't be punished when failures happen.

Here are a few ways to encourage innovation as you navigate agile leadership:

  • Allow the team to experiment with a low-risk project.
  • Contain costs and mitigate risks by encouraging small, minimal experiments that can be scaled up depending on the results.
  • Ensure that the team discusses the outcome and comes up with a solution when something fails.

Advocating for skill development

Agile leaders typically foster cultures that support professional development. They enable teams to be the best at their craft, coach and mentor them, and provide growth opportunities.

Here are a few ways to build people's skills:

  • Offer regular coaching sessions with team members if you have expertise to offer.
  • Allow employees to try new things, even if it's outside of their job description.
  • Provide training opportunities to enhance their skills or learn new ones.

Keep pace with modern markets as a Certified Agile Leader

Learn from an experienced agile trainer in CAL 1 and discover how to develop your leadership skills and apply them in any role. Search for a CAL 1 course today.

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