Taking a Look at the Agile Leadership Model


Taking a Look at the Agile Leadership Model

Being in a leadership position in this day and age of organizational uncertainty and systemic ambiguity is a challenge unto itself. Pile on the plethora of competition and frequency of potential failure, and it becomes very difficult to lead effectively. It is in these exact circumstances that the Agile leader excels, due to both the ideals of Agile leadership and their own drive, as a great leader.

The Agile Leadership model has proven immensely successful in the global professional landscape. In this article, we take a closer look at the Agile Leadership model, list down its basic concepts and determine why it is as successful as it is.

Core Attributes of the Agile Leadership Model

According to Lee Iacocca and David Wilkinson, following are the core attributes of the ideal leadership model.

  • Ambiguity tolerance
  • Curiosity
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Emotional resilience
  • Critical thinking
  • Conviction
  • Flexibility
  • Vision

Incidentally, these are elements are also the key factors behind the success of the Agile model, as well as those organizations and leaders who have adopted it. According to the Agile Business Consortium, these are what separates good leadership from Agile leadership, as the two are not one and the same.

From an impartial, purely observational standpoint, Agile leadership differs significantly from traditional leadership models, since it involves elements of all of them, and capitalizes on the positive aspects. On the adaptability front, Agile leadership is the benchmark, as all the core concepts lead towards being as adaptable as possible, leading progressively, empowering subordinates and turning the organization into a fluid, rapidly evolving mechanism.

A flexible and inclusive mindset is a great asset for a leader, especially when there is more diversity than ever in the workplace. With increasing diversity, comes a wider range of thought-processes and emotions; all of which the leader has to accommodate. This presents the requirement of being as tolerant of others as possible, in order to retain those of a different mindset, and turn those differing opinions into a uniform vision.

One of the more interesting attributes of Agile leadership is the ability to positively evolve over time, and get better with each successful overcoming of a challenge. The naturally variable nature of an Agile leader allows them to take the best out of an experience and glean what is most valuable, in terms of lessons learnt and points noted. This is really the basis of what makes a leader truly Agile.

Agile Leadership Principles

Following are the primary leadership principles, which are the foundation of Agile ideology.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: In the simplest of terms, Agile leadership demands being the change, instead of promoting and driving change. Leading by example and engaging actively in each new development inspires others the most, while still being empathetic, humble, compassionate, kind and caring towards colleagues and subordinates. To instill this quality, the potentially Agile leader needs to work on their own persona, before they start to work on others.

Improvement in Thinking Produces Improved Outcomes: High quality of thinking is always valued by the Agile leader. While tackling a problem, they first gauge who is closest to the issue at hand, and then collaborate with them towards a solution. This brings some valuable human insight into the equation, and it also means that the Agile leader does not have to rely solely on electronically generated statistics and information.

Effective Feedback Improves Organizations: Commonly, feedback is not seen as a positive and beneficial thing. This is not how the Agile leader sees it, as they welcome feedback, in particular, feedback that can potentially benefit the organization. The last bit, they focus on the most, and demand timely feedback in order to improve either their own approach, or the organization’s. This not only closes the feedback loop on a positive note, but also ensures that the leader remains open to honest, open and respectful feedback.

Purpose and Meaning make Work Fulfilling for People: Agile leaders strive to build and share a common purpose and understanding, which makes their vision of change applicable and meaningful for all. Knowing what the colleagues and subordinates have in their hearts and minds, and then unifying and aligning those emotions into action is a key quality if an Agile leader.

Emotion leads to Enhanced Innovation and Creativity: An agile leader is most likely to inspire their colleagues to be their best selves. This rings true for themselves as well, as they practice what they preach. Since emotion is an integral aspect of the human experience, they realize fully that creativity and innovation are dependent a lot on an emotionally stable and healthy being.

Leadership is Visible Throughout the Organization: The Agile leader’s personality and leadership style should reach all the corners of the organization, which will help the organization instill the same adaptability and learning prowess within itself. Basically, the Agile leader inspires others to take control of their projects, and always take the initiative when it comes to tackling a problem. This mentors those reporting to the Agile leader to become potential leaders of the future, themselves.

Leaders Exercise Appropriate Authority and Control: A classic ability of the Agile leader is always asserting the correct amount of authority and control in any given situation, instead of intervening fully and taking full control. They also engage all those who are involved in the challenge, to present their approaches and solutions towards the end result; while balancing the emerging tensions and needs of the organization.   

Collaboration Achieves Greater Success than Individual Function: Agile leaders have the capability of cultivating incredibly collaborative communities, built on respect, shared vision and high trust. They then allow the communities to operate on a level of autonomy that best suits the task, and is within suitable boundaries. All of this is due to a belief that a collaborative effort, combined with psychological health and continuous development will bring about business success.

The Best Ideas Can Come From Anywhere: This principle relates to the one about quality of thought, in that the Agile leader is open to ideas and positive influence, regardless of their own position within the company’s hierarchy. The leader to listens to advice and takes positive hints and clues, to improve on the strategy.


The best thing about Agile leadership is that even if you, as a leader, have not been following Agile principles, it is not too late. Agile project management training can help you get a head start on the most beneficial and successful leadership model, for both personal and professional development.

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