Agile Leadership: Playing to Your Strengths

The “Agile Manifesto” was published more than a decade ago, but agile leadership is here to stay.  Originally designed to help leaders create better software, the manifesto emphasizes the importance of individuals and interactions, working products developed in an iterative approach, customer collaboration and responding to change (Agile Manifesto, 2001).

Agile leadership calls on a different set of skills than traditional, plan-driven, top-down leadership does.  For example:

  • Flexibility and Openness to Ambiguity: Needed to work effectively in fluid environments, where change is embraced as a form of progress
  • Collaboration and Communication: Needed to truly connect with other people to discover their driving needs and motives
  • Team Facilitation: Needed to both build and develop agile teams that truly own problems and that can advance solutions
  • Risk Tolerance: Needed to be able to quickly assess possible risks and possible outcomes, without stress or fear taking over
  • Results Oriented: Needed to identify “quick win” outcomes that can then be enhanced over time

For leaders making the transition to agile approaches, it can be useful to complete a personality assessment to reflect on where your strengths most lie. Some people are good at managing the people side of agile, but have a harder time seeing the upside of risk. Others love the immediacy of agile problem solving, but can hurt relationships and team dynamics in the process.

Assessments designed to inventory your strengths provide a great mirror, helping you learn about yourself. Two good examples of these assessments are the Gallup StrengthsFinder and the Strength Deployment Inventory’s Strengths Portrait™.  Both focus on helping see which strengths come to you most easily, and which ones you may have a harder time accessing in yourself. These assessments work best when you apply the insights to develop an action plan to keep you grounded in an agile world.