Due to digitalization and globalization, the world has become less predictable, and consequently, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) define the work environment. This VUCA world makes it difficult to effectively manage, predict developments and make decisions. Agility, which is characterized by largely self-organized teams that can react quickly to changing circumstances, is a possibility to adaptively manage companies in complex and rapidly changing markets and thus contribute to successful development (Purbs, 2022; Setiawati, 2021).
So, what can you do as a leader to enable agile working?
- Let go of control and allow your team to work autonomously.
- Enable, coach and empower your team members.
- Act as role models for continuous improvement and take away all organizational barriers to let employees work in a self-organized way.
- Trust your team, because it encourages employees to search for solutions independently and actively.
- Communicate with your employees at eye level.
- Be transparent and open when dealing with your employees.
This makes it clear, that you as a leader are losing positional power because of agility. But in the end, agile leadership leads to improved performance and makes the organization more adaptable to change. Furthermore, agile leadership can have a positive impact on employee performance (Setiawati, 2021; Tordrup & Engholm, 2022).
However, it is to mention, that agile leadership does not always make sense everywhere. Agility is particularly important in areas close to the customer to ensure that customer requirements are met in direct contact and to respond quickly to changes in requirements or complaints. During a firefighting operation or in a cockpit of an airplane, it is not a matter of developing something new or finding out the best solution experimentally by a self-directed team. Rather, fast and decisive action is needed. Nonetheless, hierarchically managed areas also benefit when leaders act on eye level. For example, a co-pilot should have the courage to intervene before the pilot brings the plane down (Pircher, 2018).
In sum, agile leadership is essential for creating an organization that can respond quickly and efficiently to changing circumstances. By enabling, coaching and empowering their teams, leaders can encourage employees to take responsibility for their work. However, implementing agile leadership requires a changed understanding of leadership and a willingness to let go of control. As a result, this will help companies to remain competitive in a rapidly changing world.
Pircher, R. (2018). Agilstabile Organisationen: Der Weg zum dynamischen Unternehmen und verteilten Leadership. München: Vahlen
Purbs, A. (2022). Arbeit und Führung in der digitalen Transformation–Eine Empirische Untersuchung zu Transformationaler Führung und Psychologischem Kapital als Erfolgsfaktoren der digitalen Arbeit. Heidelberg: Universität Heidelberg
Setiawati, L. (2021). The effect of agile leadership and work environment to employees’ performance in a VUCA world. International Journal of Social Science and Human Research, 4(11), 3123-3131. DOI: 10.47191/ijsshr/v4-i11-08
Tordrup, L. & Engholm, A. A Model of agile leadership competencies and skills: A case study of an agile transformation. Paper presented at 45th Information Systems Research Seminar in Scandinavia (IRIS2022)