OKR, Kanban, Scrum, Design Thinking, Management 3.0, Lean Management…the list of tools and concepts around agile leadership is long and somehow it seems that everybody is talking about it. Thinking that “We should also deal with that right now” seems self-evident. But what does agile leadership actually mean? And is the implementation of agile methods in the own organization really reasonable?

Introduction to agile leadership

Today’s world of work is VUCA-influenced, which means volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In this surrounding, agile methods present themselves as THE solution. Many different methods are currently flooding the market and the agile organization is declared to be the single possible future scenario. For managers from board to HR, still a lot remains unclear: What does agile leadership really mean? What does it mean for me, my team and our organization? Are we already on a certain level of agility? And does it make sense for us to start working with agile methods such as OKR or Design Thinking?


These questions also bother MDI Trainer Alexandra Sock who works on them in a brand new orientation workshop on Agile Leadership. With a specifically designed self-assessment the core content of the workshop is to find out how agile the individual, the team and the organization already are. And it’s also about how much of agility these levels – individual, team, organization – need to be ready for the future and all upcoming tasks. In the following Alexandra Sock gives first answers.


Ask the trainer:
Alexandra Sock talking about agile leadership  


Why do you think does the agile leadership topic become more and more important?

According to my opinion, this is due to three aspect: First of all organizations recognize more and more that they can’t be sure that things that are true today will still be so tomorrow. Learning fast and adapting fast are key. The second aspect is that the world of organizations, products and brand becomes more and more insecure and complex. Agile leadership is a lot about interdiciplinarity and the idea is that the more different people do work on a certain problem, the better the answer will be. The third reason is related to hierarchies. I think that many people are no longer asking for the classical top-down hierarchies but do want to think themselves, to act self-directed and to actively shape their world of work.


As an organization: How to decide if agile methods make sense or not?

The first important thing here is: Does it have to be the whole organization? For me, agility happens on three levels: the individual level, the team level and the organization level. On the organization level I sometimes experience that agility is implemented far too quickly, or better said: tried to be implement. A deep understanding of agile leadership, if and how it could make sense and if the organization is ready or not is often missing. On the other hand, implemented on a team level I often see that agile methods do make a lot of sense, especially if they have to master complex tasks. So one way to decide if agile methods make sense is to evaluate how complex the problems and tasks that are to be solved are.


What is the basic requirement for agile leadership?

The deeper you dive into the topic the more you realize: Agile leadership is a mind-set and that simultaneously is its core. All related measures do already exist – at least in a similar form – for quite some time. The big difference comes with questions like: How do people within organizations treat each other? How transparent are processes, goals and achievements? How self-directed is an employee? What about hierarchies? What does reflect the organization’s mind-set and how much can and should it be changed?


When we talk about flat hierarchies and self-directed employees: Which role can a “classical” manager or leader have in this context?

Of course there is an intense discussion about that. In my opinion we will always need leadership in terms of regulations and framing. The turnaround which happens today is that leadership does no longer come from a few single people but from many. That means that at the end of the day it’s no longer important who sets frames and requirements. And in this context you can say that the classic “patriarchal” manager and leader in agile organizations is not so important any more.


If you are interested in agile leadership you get some insights in targets and methods of the new workshop with Alexandra Sock in the video below. You are also very welcome to contact her to compare notes about agile leadership in your organization.

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