Theresa Vermeulen

The Leadership Approach Required in an Agile Era

The digital era, known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, requires organisations to re-evaluate and adapt to the changing business environment. The main difference between this new, digital era and previous revolutions is the pace of change. The digital era provides breakthroughs at an accelerated rate, where the scale of disruption is felt in every industry, and organisations face the challenge of being flexible enough to survive disruptions in the marketplace. In leveraging new technologies and acknowledging changes in the business environment, organisations must also question whether the right leadership skills are being developed to deal with this new environment.

For organisations to survive in today's competitive business environment they will most certainly need to adopt an agile transformation strategy. A well implemented and well-orchestrated agile way of working will allow an organisation to enjoy utilitarian health - and performance improvements.

It is however not only organisations that need to pay attention to the term "Agile" but leaders also need to respond to these accelerated changes. Traditional methods are no longer sufficient, and a demanding millennial workforce has different needs. An important skill for leaders today is thinking agility. The term Agile has been around for a while and the Manifesto for Agile software Development was published in 2011. This term has however evolved into much more than just the specific techniques, practices and principles in the Information Technology and software space.

Organisations like Forbes and McKinsey emphasise trademarks and building blocks for agile organisations in various publications. Organisational agility, Operational agility as well as Strategic agility are terms frequenting their articles. In line with these developments, Agility has also arisen in the leadership domain where this form of leadership is researched in terms of its assessment as well as the development of leadership agility.

This new kind of agile organisation necessitates a new and radically different leadership approach. It is fundamental that business leaders develop new mindsets to successfully implement and lead agile organisations. They will need to acquire new skills to change their ways of work, demonstrate digital acumen and the ability to unlock potential in others.

Leaders in this era must be prepared to embrace disruption and prepare for inevitable changes in ways of working. These leaders must not only be inclusive, democratic, and open to ideas, but also encourage lifelong learning and inspire others.

The Leadership Approach Required in an Agile Era Informatics

Many large organisations have already increased their adoption of agile methods and other specialist areas within big organisations (i.e. CRO, Head of Risk) that have been found to have more conventional approaches, have been left with no other option but to also consider adopting Agile fundamentals in their leadership style. While there are a number of courses introducing the processes of Agile, the major challenge for agile leadership development is learning the sufficient skills as well as adapting team cultures. The DeltaV Agile Coaching and Leadership development program suggests the following required elements for agile leadership:

  • Authenticity
  • Inspires Followership
  • Informed and Flexible
  • Resilient
  • Nurtures Individuals
  • Creates Team Culture.

The VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world we live in requires leaders to deal with ambiguity and leaders therefore must be educated to develop the capabilities to design and lead an agile organisation. This will allow the organisation to succeed and be competitive in the disruptive business world that is today's reality.



DeltaV Partners: Agile Leadership Development