Do I Have What It Takes To Lead An Agile Transformation? Top 3 Skills Of A Modern Agile Leader

By: Cottrell | Aug 06, 2018 |  Article,  Leadership

In their 2016 article “Embracing Agile”, the Harvard Business Review points out that while leadership may vocally state their support of an Agile transformation and may even be the original champion, leadership misconceptions about what it takes to implement Agile often present huge challenges down the road. It states, “[Leaders] unwittingly continue to manage in ways that run counter to Agile principles and practices, undermining the effectiveness of Agile teams in units that report to them.”

So how can you ensure that you’re an Agile Champion, not an Agile Inhibitor? The truth is it’s hard work. But it’s not impossible work–as long as leaders focus on three important skills of a modern Agile leader: supporting the team, cultivating servant leadership practices, and optimizing the entire organization.

1. Supporting the team

The team is the building block of an Agile organization. Start your Agile execution by making sure pilot teams are successful. Giving them tools to improve their practices, coaches to help teach new processes, and time to restructure will all lead to more successful, productive teams.

When your teams encounter a setback you can start your investigation by asking them, “What did you learn?” Then, you can go further by asking, “What are you intending to do next time?” Finally, after they’ve shared what they’ve learned and what they intend to do differently, you can ask, “Do you need my help?” This reminds the team it’s their responsibility to do better and you are there as a support for their continual improvement.

Remember: Your employees are only human. They’ll need a little patience when learning and implementing their new way of working before you begin to see the real benefits of Agile.

2. Developing Advanced Agile Leadership Practices

Agile leaders are masters of empowering their teams. Modern leaders embody this concept by focusing on how they can help their employees through supporting ideas, removing impediments to their progress, and empowering them to exercise their autonomy and discover solutions to challenges they encounter.

A popular model describing effective team leadership is called servant leadership. While traditional leadership generally involves exercising power by simply telling people what to do, servant leadership is about sharing power, putting the needs of others first, and helping people develop their skills and perform as highly as possible–in essence, empowering others.

3. Optimizing the entire organization

A true Agile leader remembers to focus on the success of the organization as a whole–not just the teams or departments. A successful Agile transformation strategy includes the creation and communication of the vision or business goal, a sense of urgency for completing the vision, and a team of leaders to execute.

Remember: Success is a result of the whole organization effectively working together to deliver more value to your customers.


You can learn more about what it takes to be an Agile leader in our Certified Agile Leadership (CAL-1) course. For further coaching needs, explore our Transformation Services

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