Successful organisations were once defined by stability and structure, which brought with it hierarchy and silos. However, the way that we do business is evolving at a rate we could never have predicted and modern businesses are expected to survive in an environment where continual change, disruption, and a host of other external factors are the norm.
The traditional business model was forged in a far simpler time and, as such, leadership of these companies was infinitely more straightforward. In the 21st century, organisations need to be dynamic, flexible and evolving, which is a far cry from the static, structured companies of yesterday. So, how do leaders need to change in order to inspire and lead these new businesses?
Amidst the adoption of new technology, the birth of entirely new industries, and turbulent economic cycles, agile leadership has emerged as a beacon, creating leaders who are able to guide companies through the challenges of the modern business world.
Agile leadership enables leaders to inspire others and build a culture of self-organisation, whilst maintaining openness, inclusion, and democracy. It is organised around creating value for customers rather than a strict adherence to hierarchy, and promotes cross-functional collaboration and swift decision-making. Agile leadership builds on a strong and well-communicated vision, and requires leaders to embrace innovation, foster continuous learning, and focus on developing others.
According to McKinsey, agile leadership is developed in three phases.1
Agile leadership requires leaders to modify their responsibilities - both operational and cultural - and it is their role to ensure that the companies they lead adopt the principles of agile working. This is a dynamic process that takes time, but the benefits are far-reaching. So, what are the benefits of agile leadership?
The benefits of agile leadership are indisputable. According to the Boston Consulting Group2, agile leadership:
The benefits are also felt in an improvement in organisational culture, which is especially important as we welcome younger generations into the workforce, many of whom will expect to fulfil agile roles and consider values and culture to be as important as more traditional benefits. Furthermore, agile leadership imbues the principles of continuous learning, and sharpens the focus on results, both of which reduce the likelihood of ‘presenteeism’ and lead to increased operational efficiency.
Finally, agile leaders focus on doing, and as such, agile leadership is synonymous with being a force for action. This addresses many of the issues surrounding failed strategic implementation which beleaguer a vast number of organisations, and creates an atmosphere where employees aren’t afraid to try new things.
A guiding principle of agile leadership is continuous learning, and so we have compiled the following articles to give further insight into agile working and what it takes to implement a successful agile transformation:
1. ‘Leading agile transformation: The new capabilities leaders need to build 21st-century organizations’, McKinsey, 2019.
2. ‘How to Get Agile Right’, Boston Consulting Group, 2019.