What are the foundations of successful leadership, and more specifically: What is agile leadership?
The word agile means having the ability to move quickly and easily. Even though strategic thinking is important for business success, we would stress that speed is paramount to business success. An agile leader has the ability to quickly adapt to situations as they come along; to lead effectively in the present moment, and a willingness to quickly let go of what is not working and instead try something different. Furthermore, an agile leader recognizes that people are different. For example, communicating with an agile mindset means communicating with and recognizing people differently based on their personalities and preferences. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all communication model, and an agile leader recognizes this.
Does the concept of agile leadership mean that “old” leadership principles are obsolete? No … research reveals a number of basic timeless leadership principles that apply to all leaders, regardless of whether you work in a non-profit organization or a global multi-billion-dollar company.
You make a difference
You are the most important leader for your nearest subordinates in the organization. And you have a much bigger impact on your coworkers’ results than the chief executive has.
Regardless of your position in the hierarchy, you have to take responsibility for the quality of the leadership that your co-workers experience. But remember that no one can make you a leader; you yourself have to take the first step and be prepared to act so that others want to follow. Show the way by being a role model and inspire a common vision and make it possible for others to act on that vision. To practice what you preach also means having the guts to admit when you make mistakes. Your words are only as good as your actions.
Why should people follow you in the first place?
Many studies have shown that a leader’s credibility is crucial for people if they are to give you their time, energy, commitment, and support. Only a credible leader engages people, and only engagement can build and give new life to an organization. Leadership is a relationship between those who want to lead and those who want to follow. Credibility means doing what you say you are going to do. Credible leaders listen not only to their own ambitions but also to others’ needs and wishes. They are quite simply trustworthy.
What does it mean to be trustworthy?
Trust is earned by showing others that you have both the character (honesty and integrity) and the ability (competence and expertise) to do your job and take care of them. Research shows four distinctive behaviors that have an impact on whether others perceive you as being trustworthy: You behave predictably and consistently, you communicate clearly, you take promises seriously, and you are sincere and straightforward.
Painting a picture of a better future
As a leader, you have to focus more on the future than others, as the vision is every organization’s lifeblood. It gives meaning to the daily challenges and setbacks we face.
The essence of leadership is painting a picture of a better future. This involves having an optimistic view of the present moment as well as the future. Only a positive leader can make a positive difference. But you cannot make it alone. Leadership is a shared responsibility. You need others, and others need you.
The one thing that sets experts apart from those who are just “good” is the number of training hours. You have to work and train consciously to learn new things to become extraordinary, and that applies to a leader as well. And nobody has ever been extraordinary by keeping things the way they are. As a leader, you must accept the challenge and take responsibility for change. You need to be able to deal with setbacks and get back up on your feet after mistakes. To fail is one of the most important lessons you can learn.
Lead with your heart
Great leaders lead with their hearts. They really care about their company or organization, their co-workers, the products or services that their company provides, and last but not least, those who use the services or products. Show that you care, pay attention to people, and tell success stories that make people feel special and important. You are an important link to creating the emotional energy that is needed to make others successful.
Bringing it together
As stated in the beginning of this text, the word agile means having the ability to move quickly and easily, and according to James Kouzes and Professor Barry Posner, leadership is a meaningful relationship with a group of people. Since it is meaningful, it enables you to work more efficiently together towards a common goal. If you, as a leader, combine the ability to move quickly with the ability to build solid, meaningful relationships, you will become a better leader. Being this type of leader requires self-awareness, the ability to be authentic, build trust, and really see each and every individual, taking an honest interest in who they are and what makes them tick – even to love them.
→This article is from Lean Magazine, co-written by Softhouse together with Peter Forsman & Ann-Sofie Gustafsson, co-founders of Move Management. Access the issue here.
→Read more on the topic: The Truth about Leadership; James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner reveal ten time-tested truths that show what every leader must know, the questions they must be prepared to answer, and the real-world issues they will likely face.