What Tasks does an Agile Leader have?

Agile Leadership is not a specific role, but rather a specific way on how leadership is enacted. So as with other leaders within an organization, Agile Leaders tend to have a wide range of tasks.

Some Agile Leaders primarily focus on developing the organization i.e. the machine that builds the machine. We usually say that these leaders work ON the organization compared to working IN the organization.

Other Agile Leaders are focused on improving the performance of teams and teams of teams within the organization. And again others lead products and initiatives that create value for internal or external customers/ stakeholders.

Based on the area of focus, Agile Leaders do very different things and need to have very different skillsets in addition to the general leadership skill set.

What is NOT an Agile Leader?

Putting Agile Leader on their business card or their LinkedIn profile does not make someone an Agile Leader. As with other skills in life leadership - and with that also Agile Leadership - needs to be practiced, needs to be learned.

A leader that has no clarity on where the organization should go, hence changes their mind all the time, can call themselves “agile”, but that is not what we mean with agile leadership.

A leader that uses a command-and-control approach to demonstrate their own decisiveness and vision is not necessarily an agile leader, because they do not allow for other leaders to grow within their organization.

A leader that delegates everything and considers themselves to just be a coach, hence is not willing to take responsibility for the important initiatives within the organization, is a coach, but not an agile leader.

We guess, you get the point. Rather than focusing on what agile leadership is not, we’d like to focus on what agile leadership is.

What are the Requirements for an Agile Leader?

We can distinguish between individuals, teams, and the organization having requirements towards agile leaders. For individuals, it is important to know that your leader has your back, cares about you, and is invested in your professional development. The role of the agile leader is to help individuals develop competence.

For teams, agile leaders create the environment in which they can succeed. This means that first and foremost these teams need to have clarity on where they are supposed to go.

Without clarity most probably all of their well-intentioned decisions will be wrong. Second, teams need to be trusted to make decisions so that they can build things faster and learn faster. An agile leader gives trust and helps the team to win other stakeholders’ trust as well. Last but not least, an agile leader helps to remove impediments.

For the organization, agile leaders constantly work on making the organization not only fit for the future but also fit for today. They challenge existing structures, policies, and metrics and through that help refine and reinvent the organization’s operating system so that it allows the organization to deliver better products and services in continuously better ways.

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Sohrab Salimi

Scrum Academy GmbH

Sohrab is a long-standing Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and CEO of the Scrum Academy GmbH based in Cologne. He is a trained medical doctor and worked for Bain & Company as a consultant and as a CIO at SE-Consulting, among others, before founding the Scrum Academy. As a consultant and trainer, he has been supporting companies from a wide range of industries for over a decade on topics related to agile transformation, innovation and organizational development.