“Agile Leadership — More about Agile or More About Leadership” from an Old Blog
Many years ago, I had a blog where I commented on a number of things related to software process largely with an agile-related slant. I got directed to that blog a couple days ago and I thought I might present them here and see what people think. I have not updated them in any serious fashion because I am happy to have them criticized in the light of current thinking.
So, from August of 2009 here is the ninth:
This topic came up on Twitter earlier this morning and it’s 140 character limit seemed to me to not be allowing proper addressing of the topic. I may be that everyone can actually agree, but the shortened communication form is getting in the way. In any event here’s the way the thread went:
Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei) asked “Is Agile Leadership more about Agile, or Leadership?” I replied “Former. It’s used as an adjective, subsetting the latter.” Bob replied “Your answer is not congruent with my world view, not my experience.”
To this I posted a set of three Tweets which, combined said “Once you put ‘Agile’ in front of ‘leadership,’ by definition, you are specializing some aspects of leadership. Now leadership is still paramount, but once you qualify it, I believe the focus becomes of those aspects of leadership congruent with Agile Values & Principles rather than all possible leadership ideas.
Anna Nachesa “(@ashalynd) posted the following two thoughts: “is this not the case when sub-definitions undermine the original meaning?” and “sort of ‘rectification of names’ a la Confucius, w the purpose to give the people a new shiny symbol instead of old & beaten one.”
But I think the original issue with me may have been my misunderstanding of Bob’s intention. I was reading his question as whether leadership, generically, was what “Agile leadership” was about or whether it was about Agile ideas (applied to leadership). So I said it was the former.
But I believe, and tried to say, that leadership was the main point; however, “Agile leadership” was that general idea focused on leadership ideas that fit with the overall Agile Values and Principles. So I think Bob and I may agree. (I do not think “Agile Leadership” necessarily undermines the idea of leadership overall as I believe Anna suggested. Of course, now I may have misunderstood her!)
What do you think? How is adding the word “Agile” to the overall idea of leadership either helpful or harmful (in that it can distract from or diminish the idea of leadership)?
[PS: A follow up Tweet from Bob Marshall clarifies that he was “using the term to indicate ‘Leadership of Agile initiatives’.” And I Tweeted back that “I would agree then that, once in an Agile initiative, leadership matters most as, hopefully, Agile Vs&Ps are honored.”
Bob further noted “My intent in the question was to explore if Agile initiatives are best led by folks with agile dev exp., or leadership exp.” I definitely agree its the latter given this either/or but those leading need to understand Agile Vs&Ps wll enough to communicate with others involved in the initiative.
Thoughts on what “Agile leadership” may mean are still welcomed.]
[Repost Note: A comment I received on this was:
I may not be the best person to answer this. I am not a student of leadership theories, but rather a practioner who is leaning along the way.
To me it is all leadership. Whether you prefer the systematic approach of Agile Leadership, fall in with the Contagious Leadership folks, or are a part of the Servant Leadership contingent, etc.
Great leaders succeed through a combination of skills and qualities. The rest is just semantics.
The prefix you apply has less to do with leadership than the actions that you take every day.]