These principles we created for the Agile Business consortium in 2017 in collaboration with Katie Taylor, Ed Holt, Parag Googate and Rod Willis. See the white paper at the Agile Business Consortium

1. Actions speak louder than words

Agile Leadership is about not only driving and promoting change, it is also about being the change. Those who lead by example and actively engage in their own development, inspire people. This is through action rather than words; as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see”. Agile Leaders develop themselves to be humble and empathetic by demonstrating virtues such as compassion, kindness and care for their colleagues. Inspiring leaders work on themselves first before working on others.

2. Improved quality of thinking leads to improved outcomes

Agile Leaders value high-quality thinking which will result in meaningful action. Agile Leaders view problems from many different angles. They take input from those closest to the problem and this goes some way to ensuring that they are in touch with reality rather than relying solely on electronic information to inform their decision making. This also means allowing thinking time and focusing on the highest priorities at any given time.

3. Organisations improve through effective feedback

Receiving feedback can often be perceived as a negative experience, so Agile Leaders lead the way by courageously soliciting meaningful, useful and timely feedback from peers and other colleagues. While requesting feedback is important, Agile Leaders take time to ensure that they are visibly responding to the suggestions made by their colleagues in order to close the feedback loop. Agile Leaders model giving effective feedback that is open, honest and respectful.

4. People require meaning and purpose to make work fulfilling

Agile Leaders focus on building and sharing a common understanding and purpose. There is a vision of change that is meaningful and applicable to the organisation. The work of the Agile Leader is to be aware of what is in the hearts and minds of their colleagues, and then to unify and align those values into inspired action.

5. Emotion is a foundation to enhanced creativity and innovation

Agile Leaders inspire others to bring their best selves to their work. They understand that emotion is an important part of the human experience, and when individuals work with their emotions, they achieve more of their potential. Innovation and creativity rely heavily on respect that the Agile Leader encourages by being accessible, open, honest and transparent whilst expecting the same from others.

6. Leadership lives everywhere in the organisation

Agile Leadership should permeate all aspects of an organisation or change initiative. Realising the leadership potential of all its people helps accelerate the organisation’s ability to learn and adapt. The work of an Agile Leader is to develop depth in the organisation’s leadership capability by providing opportunities for their people to lead. Mentoring tomorrow’s leaders in the principles and practices of servant leadership sows the seeds for the Agile culture to thrive.

7. Leaders devolve appropriate power and authority

Agile Leaders recognise that people work best when they are enabled, engaged and energised. Empowering individuals is a necessary skill of the Agile Leader as they balance the emerging needs and tensions of the organisation. Agile Leaders recognise that empowerment is not an “all or nothing” concept. Instead, it is a continuum of leadership behaviour that responds to the current context for change.

8. Collaborative communities achieve more than individuals

Agile Leaders build communities based on high trust, respect and meaningful working relationships. Their role is to provide those communities with all that they need to operate efficiently but then to let them function autonomously within their boundaries. The Agile Leader understands that forgiveness, positivity, generosity and gratitude are important parts of a healthy working environment. The healthy functioning of the group together with the preservation of psychological safety allow the Agile Leader to encourage learning and development whilst also balancing sustained output and performance for the benefit of the organisation.

9. Great ideas can come from anywhere in the Organisation

People who are close to a problem usually have the best ideas about how to solve it. Agile Leaders allow themselves to be open to the influence and ideas of others, regardless of their status or position. To this end, the Agile Leader stops, listens and gives time to really hear the thoughts and ideas for improvement from their colleagues. Even if some ideas are not used, the Agile Leader encourages a continuous flow of creativity by helping people to understand which ideas were useful and which were not.

The origins of the principles

I have started to write some article that goes into a little depth on the principles here is the first one that explores the origins of the principles and how they came about.

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