How Covid-19 Is Highlighting The Need For Agile Leaders

Let’s start with what we know. We know the Covid-19 crisis is unprecedented. As leaders, we know that we’re still responsible for getting work done.

We know that the quality and the amount of work we can do depends on the level of engagement of our employees. 

And we also know that—right now—many of those employees have a hard time focusing. They feel overwhelmed and helpless.  

Times like these require leaders that eliminate complexity, inspire their teams and get them focused on the mission of the organization. This is where individuals who practice Agile Leadership have an advantage.

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What Is Agile Leadership?

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The agile methodology can help leaders and their employees grow faster

We define Agile leadership as:

The process of getting work done through others by embodying Agile Values, embedding Agile Principles, and empowering Agile Teams.

What I like about Agile leadership is that the practice is devoid of complexity and agnostic to specific techniques. It simply requires that the practitioner behave in a way that demonstrates that they value 4 things:

  • Individuals and Interaction over processes and tools
  • Working solutions over comprehensive documentation 
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

Agile leaders also embed practices that support those values into the culture of their organization. And they trust their teams to perform accordingly. 

Adhering to these values provides a simple framework for decision making around work processes, client interactions, and project selection.

Not adopting them opens the door to a number of negative consequences, especially as it relates to employee engagement. 

Let me share a couple of examples.

The first demonstrates a negative consequence that can happen when leaders value processes and tools more than individuals and interactions.

1. The School Counselor

A school counselor (friend of mine) shared a story of how she had scheduled to do a group meeting with some students who are now obviously all remote.

She couldn’t get Zoom working on her home computer so she used a different meeting tool to host the session. When she told her supervisor what happened, she got berated for not using the district’s “official tool.”  

My friend was devastated.

Her motivation was shot.

Agile leaders value individuals and interaction over processes and tools. Share on X

Her anxiety kicked in and she emotionally checked out. Instead of praising her for going above and beyond to meet the needs of the students, the manager attacked her for not using the district’s official tool.

Agile leaders value Individuals and Interaction over processes and tools.

An Agile leader would have thanked and praised her for making sure the students didn’t miss their session. They’d have either helped my friend resolve the technical issue or directed her to resources that could help.

2. The Implementation Consultant

My second example highlights what happens when leaders value following a plan more than responding to change. A colleague of mine works for a large consultancy that does software implementations. 

One of his clients needed to make significant changes to their benefits system as a result of Covid-19 policy change. They needed the changes ASAP so my colleague did the configuration without completing a change request form. 

The configuration worked and the client was happy. 

The consultant helped them meet their deadline and avoid a fine.

Pumped about the results, he called his boss to let her know.

Agile leaders value responding to change more than following a plan. Share on X

She forced him to listen to a 20-minute lecture about corporate policy and approving change request forms before making updates to software. Needless to say, the joy the consultant felt for helping the customer quickly turned to frustration.

Agile leaders value responding to change more than following a plan. If his boss were an Agile leader she would have praised him for helping the customer and just asked him to process the change request retroactively.

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Agile Leadership During Times of Crisis

As leaders, we’re only as good as the individuals we lead. Motivated and engaged individuals can make great things happen—even in times of crisis. 

Agile leadership is a simple non-prescriptive values based approach for leading yourself,  your teams and your organization.

Give it a try.