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Characteristics of an Agile Leader

Agile Methodology is one of the most adopted methods in many industries such as information technology, aerospace programs, banking and finances, constructions, government projects, etc. And the reason Agile has been successful in various industries is due to the Agile leaders who are passionate about practicing Agile methods. These leaders are capable of instilling trust in the people and create transparency in the organization. They mentor and facilitate budding minds who are interested in creating valuable products by using Agile Methods. Agile leaders are open to constructive criticism such that they could achieve building great products. Their main focus would be to fulfill the vision of the customers. They understand the true value of Agile on how it could give value to people and hence they support the creators and encourage them to develop and grow by learning and experimenting. Agile leaders are any individuals who are pushing the Agile agenda and making sure it occurs. They could be Scrum Master, Product Owner, Product Managers, Agile coaches, etc. These are the leaders who understand the true meaning of Agility and hence offer continuous support needed such that the organization experiences the right sort of change.

Here are a few characteristics of an Agile leader which you should surely develop to become successful:

1. Facilitate Self Organization

Facilitating self-organization is one of the major Agile leadership qualities. A leader is not the one who dictates to everyone what they have to do and how they have to do; a leader is a person who can make others understand their responsibilities and guide them in their actions. Self-organization implies that an Agile team does not have to be told what to do by someone superior. This Agile team collaborates effectively with each other and distributes work accordingly without any conflict or chaos and gets the work done without anyone guiding them. To achieve this state, the Agile leader should start instilling the importance of self-organization by encouraging critical thinking and decision-making skills.

In the Scrum framework, the Scrum Master helps the team align with the overall purpose, and strategies of the organizations and helps them make tough decisions for their project. Scrum Masters do not constantly manage their teams. They start giving accountability to every member of the team. They treat the Scrum team as an intelligence unit that can think and act autonomously. This will help the Scrum team become independent and function faster as they do not have to wait for managerial approval every time they come up with an idea for the project.

2. Leads with Transparency

In traditional Project Management methods, the Project Manager used to have full access to the project and the Developers would not fully know the vision of the project. This method was not transparent and most of the time the Developer did not have an idea about the product they are building. However, with the advent of Agile methods, a concept of transparency has also taken place. Industries are Agile now more than ever as the workspace changes regularly; companies share their plans for the product to everyone involved in the project.

One of the major Agile leadership qualities is also to encourage feedback and constructive criticism. The leaders are open to shifting and beginning the project again, and ready to adapt to any type of change. The characteristic of an Agile leader is to always encourage transparency and communication as they are key ingredients that make product development and delivery successful. Agile leaders have to create a vision for what they want the team or the organization to achieve in a given period such as six months and use it as a guide to inspire the employees.

3. Being Open to Possibilities

The world has seen numerous advancements in recent decades than it has ever seen in all the other centuries. All of these would not have been possible if a person did not believe in the inventions and methods they newly discovered. Hence, as an Agile leader who looks for creating value for people, any type of idea could break the record in the future. Agile leadership quality is to have an open mindset that would accept ideas from the members of the organization. A characteristic of an Agile leader is to accept the given circumstances without resistance and make use of the resources and talents they presently have.

Scrum Masters act as Agile leaders and encourage ambiguity with confidence and be ready to lead the project according to the needs of the market and the changes occurring around them. Agile methods such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean Agile, SAFe, do not require the person to plan everything at the beginning of the project and start the project after the planning. It encourages the organization and the team to start the project with an idea and later develop the idea into something valuable with the help of internal and external feedback. Hence, this type of product development method requires the Agile leader to maintain an open mindset and embrace the possibilities that could be achieved by the product.

4. Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration

An Agile organization consists of many cross-functional teams which have to collaborate to create a valuable product. These cross-functional teams include Developers, Quality Analysts, Business Analysts, Marketing Personnel, etc. One of the primary roles of Agile leaders is to encourage and empower teams to have all competencies such that they achieve the project goal. Managing a cross-functional team is one of the challenging tasks which is crucial for project success. An Agile leader has to make the environment of the workplace in a way such that all the cross-functional teams can easily communicate with each other. When all the cross-functional teams easily collaborate, many forms of waste such as Delays, Defects, Paperwork, partially done work, task switching, hand-offs, extra features are significantly reduced.

5. Refrain From Micromanaging

Agile leaders such as Scrum Masters or Product Owners should have trust in their employees and treat them as sensible human beings. The Agile team members should be allowed to make their own decisions which would enhance the quality of work. As a Scrum Master, you could always evaluate their work and give feedback on what aspects they could improve their work, but as a leader, you are not supposed to micromanage the team members in their tasks. You should believe in their capabilities and help them build confidence in their abilities. Key Agile leadership quality is to trust the team members and correct them whenever necessary. Sometimes, as a leader, you tend to over-manage Scrum team meetings and give details of how team members should go about their work. This should be avoided, and only tasks should be reviewed, and results to find improvements should be given. As a leader, you should never get tired of encouraging your fellow team members. Do not constantly observe what your employees are doing, as it may get them nervous and lessen their motivation and team spirit.

6. Always Listen to your Environment

No matter how much confidence and skills you have as a Scrum Master, if you do not listen to your team members, the market, your partners, etc. then you will not succeed in creating an impact in the industry. Often, most of the leaders would already have a vision for the product and the organization. This vision has to be communicated to all the members of the organization and their feedback has to be collected. If you are a leader who only delivers monologues and does not listen to the concerns of other members, then the chances of the organization to succeed are limited. Hence, as a key agile leadership quality, you should always listen to all the ideas, concerns, issues, impediments, thoughts of your team members, customers, fellow leaders, and also the market and then make decisions for the project and organization.

7. Mentors the team members

A new professional entering the Agile industry would be overwhelmed by the processes and the practices of the various frameworks of Agile. It is the responsibility of an Agile leader to mentor and guides the professional into the practices and techniques of Agile. Teaching them how to use the tools and techniques of Agile, and practically applying them in real-world scenarios would be a great start for professionals to learn about Agile. Mentoring takes patience, which is one of the most important virtues an Agile leader should develop. An Agile leader such as a Scrum Master should instill confidence and trust in the team members and help them discover their potential. The leader should encourage the team members to ask the right questions and help them become better professionals. Along this process, the leader also grows as a better individual.

8. Can deal with change and frequent disruption

As the Agile process is about accepting frequent changes and adapting them along the process, an Agile leader should have the ability to deal with these changes frequently. They cannot have a definite path for the product and plan the product in detail before they develop. They have to analyze the market and constantly adapt to the changes in their product. They always have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable which implies they should not hesitate to try innovations and ideas in the future. Adapting to current conditions would make the leader and the team members uncomfortable. However, they have to overcome this discomfort and instill confidence in their fellow team members. Also, there would be times where clients could be constantly shifting timelines to trigger events, and communicate often about different ideas which may disrupt the present work. These kinds of disruptions should be dealt with smoothly and the goal of the Agile leader should be to thrive in this environment and not just survive.

9. Constantly keeps learning

A single person cannot presumably acquire entire knowledge about the subject. There are discoveries, inventions, and updates that keep taking place that an Agile leader should be updated about. Being humble enough to admit that they do not know everything there is to know and constantly learning more about Agile and other methods would give the leader an upper hand in dealing with many impediments and issues. An Agile leader should be open to learning from anyone who has the knowledge to offer. They are never superior to anyone and should always have the humility to accept the things they do not know. A leader never stops learning and should always encourage their fellow team members to learn and adapt to changes and be updated with the current trends.

Conclusion
All businesses can become more beneficial and earn more revenue by becoming Agile and increasing their Agility. However, a business is made from its leaders and the leader of the organization has to be Agile and understand its meaning. An Agile leader should have the mindset of being open to ideas and possibilities. They should mentor fellow team members and guide them about the process in Agile. However, this type of leader should not micromanage the teams but should lead the team with a collaborative mindset, giving them the freedom to choose their ways to complete the task. The leader should act as a coach to the team members and should help them make their own decisions instead of taking any decisions for them. All of the qualities such as critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making should be present in the leader. And these qualities should be taught to the members as well. Hence, by having a great leader in the organization, the business is bound to grow and flourish in the future.

 

References:

https://www.infoq.com/news/2021/02/characteristics-agile-leaders/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/06/17/15-key-qualities-that-define-an-agile-leader/
https://medium.com/sparks-publication/the-7-essential-attributes-of-agile-leadership-225aec336622

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