Feb. 26, 2018

Certified Agile Leadership (CAL): The making of an Agile Leader

A Leader can be made, embracing Agile values starting from the crucial point of having the will to change

The interest in applying Agile methodologies, especially on a leadership or organizational level, has increased enormously and is only growing, if our bulging inboxes and continuous phone appointments are any indication. There are very good reasons for that shift. Market conditions change fast and constantly, and customer demands and expectations are becoming higher and higher.

These conditions are exactly what the Agile values and principles address: using an approach built on flexibility, responsibility, and transparency, they enable organizations to deliver faster and high-quality results.  

Management and Leadership

What challenges does the Management of an organization face? If we focus on flexible, self-organizing teams designing their own process through continuous experimentation, feedback, and removing what doesn’t work, is there a conflict with classic corporate and management approaches? And with Agility becoming a trend and a buzzword, what should the response be from senior management? The answer comes from Agile Leadership. This year’s “State of Scrum” report from the Scrum Alliance identified the support from senior management as the crucial point of tension for a successful implementation. However, the sporadic implementation of Agile Tools and Methodologies is not enough to make a difference. Mindset and culture need to change in order to create true and long-lasting Agility. This growth that can lead to greater resilience and, through that, to sustainable business success. We at agile42 see this change as an ORGANIC, rather than mechanical, process. A Leader has a central role to play in that, starting with him- or herself.

Those who embrace Agile values paint a pretty clear picture of an Agile Leader. They are someone who can deal with uncertainty and flux, someone who is knowledgeable on methods and approaches, someone who is creative and team-focused. And moreover, they are someone living by the Agile Principles. The role of the leader in the Agile team is not to say who does what, but to keep an eye on the destination so that everyone is rowing towards the same direction and to remove the obstacles in their way. They free their team members to do their job by providing a safe-to-fail environment, information, and support. Without organizing, they make self-organization possible.

Scene from a CAL1 training

By this point, the Leader probably sounds a bit superhuman: wise, selfless yet self-aware, knowledgeable, and with a clear view of the future. A Leader, however, is not some kind of combination of a genius and a saint. A Leader can be made, starting from the crucial point of having the will to change. Effective frameworks and tools to facilitate this process already exist, such as the Certified Agile Leadership Program (CAL). The process works through a combination of self-development, experience, and education. The latter, providing an outsider eye, mentorship, and support can be very important in understanding what the situation is, and in what directions changes can be made in the Leader and in the culture surrounding them.

To get an idea, you can have a look at what participant Miikka Niemelä wrote about our CAL 1 Training earlier this month in Finland: “The speed of change is faster than ever and more and more is demanded from the leaders. Managing actions and expecting results won’t get you there. Leaders who affect on experiences and beliefs are creating culture that welcomes change. […] This is why Agile Leadership is needed.”

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Anna Panagiotou

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Anna Panagiotou

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