What is Agile Leadership

by Nov 26, 2018

  • Agile leadership starts with mindset, and is followed by behaviours
  • Agile leadership means you probably need to change some of your default settings
  • The benefits of Agile leadership are better performance and better relationships.

I was talking to a business leader the other day, whose organisation was adopting new ways of working. He asked me about how I defined Agile Leadership.

For me there are a number of elements that make for an agile leader, but what I think is important to recognise is that you don’t need all of the to be an agile leader. If you pick three of the following and focus on moving more to the agile side of this, you will most likely be encouraging better performance and enjoying better relationships with your peers and team members.

I’ve shared the list below and contrasted it with what agile leadership is not. The reason why I do this is sometimes it is easier to work out what agile leadership is, by what looking at the reverse. At this stage, the reverse is often more common.

Agile leadership means being: 

  • Comfortable with challenges to their authority v leaders who see this as unsubordination and needs to be punished
  • Early adopters of mindfulness – they are “present” and in the moment v leaders who don’t see what’s happening in front of them as they are too focused on the future plan / threat / opportunity
  • Life long learners v belief that they have all the knowledge they need, and anything else is a fad
  • Adaptable to changing conditions v rigid, and insistent on staying the course.
  • Connectors of people and themes v perpuates siloed thinking and operations
  • Tolerant of ambiguity v sees ambiguity and complexity as a threat
  • Courageous v fearful of ‘what if’
  • Inclusionary v exclusionary

 Further, agile leadership means doing the following actions: 

  •  Promote psychological safety  – encourage people to speak up, be heard and offer dissent
  • Makes data driven decision making
  • Operates with trust, openness and empowerment
  • Make decisions swiftly
  • Work at “letting go” – committed to simplification
  • Drives value through emphasising purpose
  • Connector of people and themes
  • Work at building resilience
  • Support creativity

You can see how many of these themes lend themselves to a more human centred organisation. Over to you? What do you see being the attributes of agile leadership?

If you need help moving your leadership team to more agile ways of being and doing, drop me a line. Happy to help you with that!  

And for one of my favourite resources on agile leadership – here’s the animated clip from David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around.



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