Agile Leadership vs. Agile Management

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This is the eleventh episode in the Agile Leadership & Management Series

Agile leadership is a transformative, development-oriented leadership style and it is the natural next-step to traditional leadership styles based for example on command and control or on carrot and stick.

Agile leaders are known for their ability to create the conditions required for unleashing the knowledge, motivation, initiative, and team collaboration needed for achieving organizational goals; and stay healthy as teams and people.

Management is a natural part of leadership because the system (not the people) needs to be managed. 

When Agile leaders have strong management skills, they become known for their situational awareness, forethought, initiative, willingness to grant autonomy, responsibility, and ability to demonstrate flexibility and build trust as well. 

In Agile organizations, each leader is responsible for managing one domain: either people, product, technology, or process. The interplay between these domains is where the functions of leadership and management coexist. Therefore, to enable Agility within an organization, it’s critical that management practices used within each domain support the Agile principles! 

One important capability needed for supporting Agile principles is to increase the speed in the decision-making throughout the whole organization. A way of doing this is to create a common view of intent and direction together with pushing the decision to where the information is. For example, clarifying the purpose of what we are doing and delegating the “how” to those who are actually doing the job.

Establishing high alignment around what and why has a two-fold benefit:

  • Decreasing the need for top-down command and control, while simultaneously…
  • …creating conditions for faster decision-making and autonomy.

It may take some time in the beginning, to create and learn how to do this – but it’s worth it. 

In the end, speed and quality will increase since it allows for a higher level of autonomy and thus more rapid adjustment to reality. This is an example of agile management in a nutshell.


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The next post in the November Agile Leadership and Management Series: “Managing the system. Not the people”


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