Agile Leadership

Being agile means being flexible, active and adaptable, especially in times of change and insecurity. Above all, digitalisation and how we deal with it can create good things and new things and rapid change, but also insecurity.

Digitalisation is perhaps the fastest revolution in human history and has fundamentally changed our world in recent years. Many cherished habits have become possible as a result. Today, for example, 57% of all family holidays are booked online – still completely unthinkable at the turn of the century. Although digitalisation has significantly changed our pace of life, it has not changed people’s basic need for appreciation.

The speed made possible by digitalisation influences and changes the way people deal with one another and also our expectations of one another. It is expected that we all react in an agile fast manner, much faster than ever before. The result is the so-called VUCA world, a world which feels volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, with all its opportunities and risks.

Digitalising means accelerating. I feel this acceleration, especially because much more information is available everywhere, and much faster than it was 20 years ago, and I like it. In today’s professional world, the proliferation of mobile devices and laptops is leading to more and more employees being able to access relevant work content from anywhere in the world at any time. Thus, structuring life is increasingly becoming a more freely configurable option, which can be highly self-determined. According to a study by Roland Berger on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, the time saved by mobile forms of work averages 4.4 hours a week. This increases our time sovereignty and can improve our quality of life, provided we consciously deal with our time and freedom.

Digitalisation has also changed some demands on you and your leadership as a Lead Wolf. Therefore the topic “agile leadership”. The demands on your self-leadership are higher than ever before. The huge amount of constantly available information creates time pressures and the feeling that you have to make the right decision ever faster. It is important to be reachable via the right channels, but also to switch off in a targeted and complete manner in order to recharge your batteries with new energy and motivation.

The role of the leader has also changed. Your role as Lead Wolf is developing more and more from that of a single decision maker to that of a navigator. A decision maker still for many parts but a navigator for the bigger picture. It is even more important than ever to give basic orientation, direction and meaning, and encourage self-help instead of giving announcements from “above”.

While in the past all important decisions were made at the top of the hierarchy, today, decision making is moving more and more into less hierarchically organised teams, to where the ability needed for the decision and the expertise are located. No longer solely the senior managers but the experts for the relevant question are making those decisions.

But there are also important things that digitisation has not changed. Personality cannot be digitalised. And more than ever, there is a lot of truth to the phrase “People join companies, but people leave people.” If you want more than to just keep your employees in the company, and you want to motivate them sustainably, then you need to be close enough to them to feel how they are doing, and what they need to succeed and develop fully. Too many Lead Wolves do that too rarely. According to a survey by Stepstone Research and Kienbaum, more than 50 percent of respondents have changed jobs because of their boss. So, be close to your people, personality can not be digitalised.

But how do you lead with agility? Here are my 4 best tips for you:

1. Purpose and Orientation

The sentence “who demands performance, must provide purpose” comes from a Chinese philosopher and is arguably even more valid in today’s fast world with its courageous young workers. As Lead Wolf, you should give your employees meaning through a motivating vision, strong values ​​and a clear strategy. Your vision should not only be of interest to the owner or shareholder of your company, but above all to inspire your employees. The values ​​of your company should clearly show what culture your company wants to live. And the strategy should contain clear decisions about what is done and what is not done. In our fast digital world, meaning and clarity are even more important than ever. 

So, tip # 1 for agile leadership: Purpose and Orientation.

2. Connect Tasks and People

In order for your team and you to be agile, and for you to be a successful Lead Wolf, you need to properly connect tasks and people. You have to put the right people on the right jobs. It is important that you, as Lead Wolf, know the strengths of your individual employees well. If employees can often use their strengths at work, then they win and have fun. The tasks may be slightly larger than the employees believe they can manage. As long as they can use their strengths, as long as they can make mistakes and learn from them without fear, they will continue to develop and become more and more successful.

Also, linking your employees to customers, to other people, to skills and resources outside of your company is becoming easier and easier today. Previously in the offline world for example, the transfer of big movie files took hours or days and cost quite some money. Today, we transfer huge files in a matter of seconds and that costs little or no money at all.

As a Lead Wolf you should help your employees and yourself to seize the many opportunities for agility and freedom. You should use all the sensible possibilities of digitalisation, in such a way that they increase success and fun, and also allow breaks, when they are needed.

So tip # 2: Connect Tasks and People.

3. Fast, Short, Clear

Digitalisation has made it even more important to communicate in a short, clear and efficient way. Use the time of others, and your own time sensibly and efficiently. Where others decide, quickly give them clear expectations and clear responsibilities, ask them good questions to help them decide properly and give them the resources they need to win. Always make a decision, decide clearly, and always justify your point. And, as time is in short supply, use it consciously.

For example, in the past, scheduling a phone call with a good adviser often took hours or more. Today’s communication channels allow you to reply within seconds that you are welcome to call right away and that you have 5 minutes to spare. This often allows you to decide quickly and well. Agile leadership means fast, short, clear decisions and communication.

So tip # 3: Fast, Short, Clear

4. Appreciation

Since digitalisation of staff management can take place over large spatial distances, making tangible appreciation feel insufficient. In our digital world, as the Lead Wolf, you should regularly let your people feel that you appreciate them and their good work through real life, listening, exciting projects, concrete good feedback, your body language, your voice, your smile. We humans reflect the behaviour of others. Watch your people succeeding at something important, and tell them. Say thank you, and let them feel you mean it, when they do work well. Personality cannot be digitalised. 

So tip # 4: Whenever appropriate, give appreciation.

Summarised, my 4 best tips for you for agile leadership:

1. Purpose and orientation
2. Connect tasks and people
3. Quick, short, clear decisions and communication
4. Appreciation

Thank you for your attention, 
your Stefan Homeister