Recently, I attended a workshop to practice my Agile Coaching Skills. The course, given with passion, had the objective of making our group of Agile Coaches better “Servant Leaders”. When I reflect back, I realize that the concept of Leaders and Leadership is something we need to give more attention to so as to better adopt Agile successfully.
In this post, I will discuss Leadership in the context of the Agile Creative-Destruction paradigm. As economist Joseph Schumpeter once observed in his studies, destruction and creation are often paired. Likewise, the legendary icon of the Phoenix is an early symbol of the birth, life, death, and resurrection which inevitably leads to immortality. In business, this sense of immortality is known as continuity. Schumpeter elaborates that destruction is a mechanism that allows the market to maintain freshness by eliminating products no longer needed with creation and innovation.
In today’s fast pace economy, managers and leaders have to go beyond managing continuity. In my previous post, I was discussing Divergent Thinking as a critical aspect for creativity and innovation. How can managers become leaders for Divergent Thinking? How can they ensure that the proper questions are addressed early enough to allow them to be handled in a judicial way? How do we establish a rich context of information as a stimulus for posing the right questions? I take the approach to destroy the “Command and Control” role as we know it, and embrace the Servant Leader mindset to unleash talent and creativity.
The Servant Leader will lead by means of selection and motivation of employees rather than through control of their actions. He will provide ample resources and time to generate value. The Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps them develop to better perform as efficiently as possible.
As companies grow and mature, they become more complex. These complexities manifest themselves in rules, process, and bureaucratic growth. Destruction is a way to eliminate this encrustation of complexity. The organisation must decentralize control to effectively deal with this reality. Specifically, they must:
- Increase the pace of change to levels comparable with the market.
- Open up their decision-making process to make use of the collective talent of the company and its partners.
- Relax conventional notions of control.
Control systems can create defensive routines in companies including the failure to challenge status quo, failure to encourage a diversity of opinions, failure to challenge superiors, inconsistent communication and making failures, even when known, undiscussable. Change becomes impossible.
The new generation of managers should control what and when they must, not what and when they can. If a control procedure is not essential, it should be eliminated. Measure less, shorten the time and number of intermediaries between measurement and action. Increase the speed you receive feedback. The results will translate into people taking more ownership and being more dedicated to success. The leader will do everything in his power to get what the team needs to perform. This is the Agile mindset and adopting it requires the destruction of the old way of leading and working for it to be successful.