The question of what makes a good leader has long been under discussion, with several theories emerging to answer the question. It is also a matter of leadership style, of which Kurt Lewin identified three in 1939 – authoritarian, participative, and delegative.

During the pandemic, participative leadership seemed to be more on the rise. With Qualtrics reporting that 42% of people experienced mental health decline during the pandemic, leadership that accounted for employees’ views, was inclusive and empathetic, became all the more essential. With work-life boundaries blurring, leaders who are tuned into their employees’ needs and concerns, are better able to reduce stress, improve performance, and create a more comfortable workplace.

Agile leadership as responsive and participative leadership

Agile leadership is based on the Agile Manifesto, which led to the agile and scrum software development models. However, this idea has long since gone beyond the IT industry. It morphed to accommodate any organization that chose the agile model – decentralizing power and including employees at every decision-making level. These practices enable better risk management, ensuring that the company keeps up with changing times, especially with the regular performance reviews agile experts recommend.

With such a backdrop, agile leaders prioritize their employees to create strong teams. The participative culture promoted by such leaders ensures openness, cements trust, and allows teams to improve together, automatically driving productivity.

Agile leadership depends on the three Cs – communication, commitment, and collaboration.

  • Ensuring open channels of communication is key to agile leadership. As a participative leadership model, it requires such free flow of information to enable better employee performance. Thus, agile leaders need to show kindness and an ability to listen to foster an empathetic work environment. Once such a stage is set, the communication between leaders and employees improves the quality of thinking within the company. Employees specializing in specific fields help in decision-making, ensuring that leaders find realistic solutions to any challenges. Open communication channels also promote a culture of feedback that leaders can utilize to improve their organization and themselves.
  • As Microsoft reported in March 2021, 41% of the global workforce planned to quit their jobs. One of the main reasons for this was leaders being out of touch with their employees’ requirements. This significantly reduced employee commitment to the company. Agile leaders set emotional foundations that allow empathy and creativity to permeate at every level of the organization. They are also accessible to employees at all levels, which allows employees to feel seen and cared for.
  • Agile leaders empower individuals to make decisions by trusting in their expertise. They understand that groups achieve more than individuals and encourage such professional relationships in the workplace. They then include various groups in the relevant decision-making processes, recognizing that ideas can come from anywhere in the organization.

McKinsey reported that agile organizations were faring better than traditional organizations amid COVID-19due to their ability to change with the times. Part of this change-driven approach involved further empowering teams, proving the role of leadership style in making an entire operation agile. While agile leadership skills cannot be developed overnight, investing in them can help companies and teams become adaptable, with improved performance – a fact that leaders today need to consider when deciding what kind of leader they want to be and why.

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