Andrea Provaglio is an Agile Executive Coach, Agile Organizational Coach, Keynote Speaker and Mentor. As an independent professional, he helps executives, leaders and managers, who appreciate the business advantage of effective knowledge work, to evolve their company and teams into healthier, more modern organizational and cultural models, including Agile and Lean. In over two decades of professional experience, he assisted clients in three different continents, working with a wide range of companies and organizations, both in the private and in the public sector, ranging from the United Nations and large multinationals to small and dynamic IT companies. He is a regular speaker at major international conferences.
Abstract: Rethinking agile leadership
The Agile world seems to have recently discovered the importance of “leadership”. This can be very good news and it can also very bad news. It’s bad news if the so-called “Agile Leadership” is a way to rebrand traditional management models, along with their underlying mindset, so that they could survive in a rather different cultural ecosystem — namely, Agile. On the other hand, this interest can be very good news if Agile Leadership is seen as something almost entirely new. Something tightly connected to Agile and, therefore, deeply rooted in complexity and empiricism. Something that carries a deep understanding of human dynamics in highly cooperative, intellectually intense social environments. Something that — last but not least — is equipped with a good deal of self-awareness, system-awareness and self-transcendence.
Modern and truly Agile organizations want and need to, among other things: explore and validate multiple options, not sticking to predefined plans; learn constantly, re-plan as needed; leverage the collective intelligence of their teams, for better exploration of options and smarter learning; have built-in resiliency when facing sudden change; getting results out of people’s participation, not out of people’s compliance. In this sense the whole concept of true Agile Leadership is quite important indeed, because it’s fundamental to nurture and support those organizations that really embody an Agile culture, and that are so far away from the “organization as a machine” approach that’s so typical of traditional leadership and management disciplines. Agile Leadership or, rather, the act of “leading” in Agile is so much different from those disciplines because it’s inherently organic, meaning that it has influence and is influenced on a number of different levels in the individual and in the organization: on the personal level; on the collective level; on current behaviors; on future behaviors; on the social relationship level (trust); on the personal responsibility level (participation); on the formal responsibility level (accountability); on the motivational level and many more. This richness and multidimensionality of the act of leading in Agile is such that simplistic mental models (such as the leader being the “guy at the top”) simply won’t suffice and therefore a more mature understanding and practice of leading is called for, in the entire organization.