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.
In this talk we will discuss the case for Agile leadership, why we need it, what are the benefits to the organization and why it's different from other leadership approaches. We'll talk about the individual skills and "mental stances" that allow leaders to support an organizational Agile mindset. We'll talk about accountability, personal responsibility and the what it means to influence. Finally, we will challenge a few common assumptions on leadership and suggest alternatives.