Agile Leadership? Model the Agile Mindset

An Agile Leader is one that 1) Models the Agile Mindset and 2) is able to foster the development of an environment that aligns with Agile. Anyone can be an Agile Leader. It is about how we show up and what we value – not about a formal role such as a manager, Scrum Master, or Agile Coach.

Agile Mindset Definition

What does it mean to model the Agile Mindset?

I have asked this question around the world at Agile Meetups (see image) and the key behaviours that people identify with the Agile Mindset are:

  • Flexible
  • Open
  • Respectful
  • Responsive

When we look back at the Agile Manifesto we can see the key words that point to these behaviours: “learning”, “individuals & interactions, and “responding to change”.

Living the Agile Mindset

The work for each of who wishes to be an Agile Leader is to be 100% honest and see where we do and do not live the above behaviours. Our challenge is to overcome our cognitive bias and see exactly when and where during the day we are not living the Agile mindset (behaviour). With this information, we can conduct our own “individual retrospectives” and self-improvement plan.

The unfortunate truth of the Agile Community is that the vast majority of people who self-identify with Agile, do not actually live the Agile Mindset. This “Wave 1 of Agile” – where we do the practices of Agile and talk about the Agile Mindset, yet fail to fully model the behaviours associated with it. The evidence of this is the vast failure rate of “Agile Transformations” where people are mandated to use the Agile framework without being respectful, open, flexible or responsive.

Wave2 of Agile

“Wave 2 of Agile” is about living the Agile Mindset in everything we do. Not just some of the time. Not just when convenient, all of the time, at work and at home. During deadlines, challenging meetings, conversations and relating to people or situations. When we live and model the values of Agile we inspire others to do the same. This is, as I understand it, the true meaning of Agile.

Agile Leadership Defined

An Agile Leader is, by necessity, someone who lives and models the Agile Mindset: Flexible, Open, Respectful and Responsive. This is the bare minimum. Here are some easy checks you can do on your own behaviour to see how you live the Agile Mindset:

  • How do you react when someone doesn’t show up for a meeting? Are you flexible?
  • When someone gives your feedback, how do you react? Are you open?
  • When someone disagrees with your idea or plan, how do you feel? Do you respect other people’s ideas? Do you push for your own ideas?

For many of us, we can easily see there is more we can do to support our own behaviour shift to the Agile Mindset. Starting with ourselves is a key way to become an “Agile Leader”. As we embrace the behaviour and shift our mindset to a more Agile way of being we will create leaders around us. Leaders who lead, inspire others to a new way of being that enables a new way of working.

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