The courage to run an agile leadership

by Therese Johansson

I spoke to a junior leader this week who wanted coaching before a meeting. I got the impression that the leader wanted to have full control of the entire meeting. I urged him to set the framework and objectives for the meeting, but then to have the courage to let the meeting participants go. This is to achieve inclusion and participation.

Many times we think as leaders that we need to sit on all the answers. I claim that by instead daring to drive true diversity and using the entire organization, both its brains and its hearts, we achieve better results. Both on the "last line" as well as in employee surveys. What's the worst that could happen? We may fail. But if we create an organization that does not dare to fail, the risk is great that we will reach stagnation, and in today's fast-paced society, I fear that this can lead to greater damage than a small failure here and there can do.

There will be a round two

In order for employees or subordinate managers to dare to speak up and make their voice heard, we need to create an open and trusting climate, where we as senior leaders avoid pointing out and looking for faults but have the courage to run an agile leadership. It's important to have the patience to let your resources start to take off, maybe fall a few times, pick them up, brush the grit off their knees and let them continue their development. We don't need to win round one because there will be a round two and a round three, step by step we will move forward in our development journey. I usually make the analogy of a ship leaving port with the goal of getting to the next port. During the journey, things can happen on the way that make us need to take detours, such as a storm or engine breakdown. Unexpected problems mean that we need to be flexible and solution-oriented in our mental state, in order to make it through the journey whole and clean. It is not the whole world if round one is lost if we are already focused on adjusting the tactics for round two.

What is meant by agile leadership?

If we are to give an explanation for what agile leadership is, it stands for a focus on achieving internal motivation for our human capital instead of traditional reward systems such as higher pay or bonuses. Agile working methods were born in the USA in software development. The aim was to change and develop the traditional working methods where we first set up plans which are then communicated. By developing an agile way of working as a complement to the traditional one, specialists believe that we achieve a better result, something I really agree with. I refer to my previous column about the importance of having a balance between manager & leadership for the good of the business.

Through good agile leadership, we are expected to have committed employees who feel that they can be involved in making decisions, while having fun together through good dialogues and great participation. Instead of creating a culture where we feel scrutinized, we create a trusting culture. Trust that generates loyalty creates employees who experience well-being and are more motivated to stay and be one of the gang, rather than running after carrots such as higher pay and bigger bonuses. Working with the heart makes us feel more meaningful and from my own experience, I can guarantee that working with meaningful issues that concern me makes me happier than a fat paycheck and fat bonuses. Make rough plans at the beginning of the journey but think agile management, which means that you adapt to what is most important in the moment, the puzzle usually folds itself after each step we take.

Dare to let go of control 

Have the courage to let go of the control you possess in the managerial role and give your employees the conditions to grow. Believe in your subordinates, invest in leadership development, mentoring and guidance so they develop to the level they need to deliver. Create a culture of openness, inclusion and participation, meet opposition with a smile and turn opponents into your ambassadors. If there is someone who is still stubborn and against, becomes an anchor for your organization, dare to put them on the bench and give the others the opportunity to flourish.

Those who know me will probably laugh when they read this last paragraph, because they know how hard I've had to work on just that—letting go of control. How do I work with it? A friend of mine said; ... "you're obsessed with development" and that's probably the answer to the question. I work daily on my personal development and have done so for as long as I can remember. The more I develop, the more I realize how far I have left. I'm human, I'm not perfect and I'll never be perfect but I'm constantly focusing on the tactics for the next round.

My personal best tip is; dare to fall, cry a little, get up and roll up your arms, grab round two.