What Is Agile Leadership? (With Key Techniques and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When the Agile methodology originally appeared, professionals associated it exclusively with project management and software development. Agile leadership can be beneficial for many types of organisations because of its simple but effective methods that involve empowering employees and continually improving work processes. If you're a professional with an interest in leadership styles, learning more about Agile leadership can help you expand your capabilities. In this article, we explain what Agile leadership is, list some key techniques of this leadership style, explain the importance of it and discuss the benefits of adopting Agile leadership in the workplace.

What is Agile leadership?

Agile is an approach to software development and project management that focuses on working in small increments, which can help a team complete its objectives quickly and efficiently. Agile leadership aims to optimise employees' performance by removing any obstacles that may prevent them from attaining the objectives of a given project. Additionally, these leaders have the ability to identify and nurture the talents of their team members.

They're also efficient in observing areas for improvement and providing feedback in a professional and conducive manner. Often, Agile leaders also have qualities that set them apart from other leaders. For example, they're often adaptable, curious, innovative and capable of communicating effectively.

Related: FAQ: What Is Agile Modelling in Software Development?

Key techniques of Agile leadership

Agile-certified leaders use several techniques in the workplace that distinguish them from leaders using other leadership methodologies. The following are some of the key principles that Agile leaders use in their work:

Leading by example

Agile leaders lead through their actions, not just through their words. When they want to affect a change in their team, they may first demonstrate the change themselves so as to lead by example and influence the other members.

For example, if an Agile leader wants to correct a punctuality issue within their team, they may begin by gathering all their members and articulating their expectations of them in a clear manner. The next step that this Agile leader may take is to start coming into the workplace punctually, which can impress their team members and encourage them to follow their instructions.

Related: Leader vs Manager: 8 Key Differences between Both Roles

Creating strong teams by fortifying individuals

An Agile organisation values having entire teams that are competent in performing tasks, as opposed to a scenario where a team may only have one or two members who excel in their roles. To achieve this ideal, an Agile leader pays close attention to all their team members and notes what their strengths are and what interests or motivates them to do their best work. In doing so, they're then able to provide appropriate advice to nurture these strengths and motivate them to excel in their responsibilities.

Similarly, if a team member experiences challenges meeting their performance targets, an Agile leader may devise a plan to help them achieve their objectives. They may also take the initiative to check in frequently with the team member to monitor their progress and provide support.

Related: 7 Scrum Master Certifications That Can Help You Succeed

Promoting self-organisation among employees

A key tenet of Agile organisations is that their teams can perform with minimal supervision, as the Agile approach to project management involves encouraging employees to take responsibility for their own performance in the workplace. As a result, Agile team members typically plan their own schedules in line with the deadlines of the projects they're working on. Since Agile leaders are receptive to new methods of optimising work processes, team members are usually able to experiment with their work schedules and the processes they use, as long as they provide quality work and meet any deadlines.

Focusing on measurable data

As employees in an Agile organisation act with some degree of leadership, at least regarding the completion of their own tasks, the use of factual and precise data becomes important. Agile-trained leaders rely on accurate data of their team's workflows to make decisions and implement changes that can improve them. This method of creating adjustments can reduce or do away with the need for highlighting processes that aren't up to standard. The focus is not on an individual's work but rather what the data conveys and how best to overcome the challenge.

Related: 10 Types of Leadership Styles

Encouraging creativity throughout the organisation

Agile leaders are aware that great ideas can come from employees throughout the organisation, especially from those who work closely with key operations. These leaders can give inspiration to their team members, while also allowing themselves to receive inspiration from them. This two-way exchange can improve interpersonal relations throughout the organisation and lead to innovative ideas.

Why is Agile leadership important?

Agile leadership represents a break from more traditional methods of leadership that have been the standard of organisational excellence for decades or more. In traditional organisations, all important decisions and instructions typically come from senior-level executives at the top of the organisational hierarchy. While this style of management has its benefits, it can make implementing changes a lengthy process, since all adjustments go through the proper channels and attain the approval of those at the top of the hierarchy.

Additionally, senior-level executives and other forms of management may have a limited understanding of the technical or daily processes of their organisation to be able to recommend effective changes. So, in some circumstances these professionals risk worsening their operations. Agile organisations differ in their approach to work processes, as they recognise that employees who handle the daily affairs of a business often have invaluable insights that can help improve efficiency. This open approach to work, where all members of an organisation can offer feedback and ideas, allows for experimentation to discover the most suitable way to handle operations.

Related: What Is Leadership? (With Key Elements of Leadership)

Benefits of Agile leadership

The following are some benefits that Agile leadership can have on employees and the organisation:

Increases communication between and within teams

Agile leaders practise and foster open communication with their team members, which in turn encourages team members to communicate more effectively with each other. Open communication in an Agile organisation involves not only the unfiltered expression of ideas and feedback from both parties but also active observation and listening when someone else is sharing their thoughts. This process creates transparency in work processes, which can improve the productivity of the team and help them to deliver a satisfactory final product.

Improves employee motivation

Agile leaders allot their team members a substantial amount of freedom when it comes to performing their roles, which can have a positive effect on their motivation. Employees in Agile organisations are able to use their own knowledge and experience to determine the best way to complete a task. This approach helps employees feel proud of their tangible contributions to the organisation, and conveys the trust that their leaders have in them and their expertise. As a result, Agile leadership can motivate employees to want to do their best in the workplace and improve employee retention in the organisation.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Enables continuous improvement

Since Agile teams are free to experiment and look for new ways to upgrade their workflow, both Agile leaders and their team members are constantly experiencing improvements. These improvements may take the form of hard skills pertaining to the job becoming more refined. Alternatively, Agile leaders and their teams' members may find that their interpersonal skills, such as their attention to detail or adaptability to challenges from external factors, become enhanced as they work together to complete projects.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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