I tried to define this new leadership concept in my previous article titled Agile Leader. Briefly, I had put forth a transformation that evolves from operation focus to human focus. In this article, I’d like to briefly share two major challenges currently encountered by managers in their journey of transformation.
The fear of feeling useless
In the current structure, managers are so heavily involved within the operation that I prefer to call them “foreman managers” in this sense. Therefore, we see that the current managers feel emptiness when they start to leave the operation to the team. Perhaps this might be perceived as a comforting element in the beginning, but we in fact speak of an emptiness that makes one feel useless after a while. Using this uneasiness for transformation is the key. You know what they say; important changes start with a bit of stomachache. So, managers should shift the focus to the topics I mention in my previous article, such as developing themselves, ensuring transparency, developing their team, and create themselves afresh. Agility is a talent of renewal and managers must lead the renewal.
Being able to stop intervening and producing answers
Again, currently, producing answers is the easy part of the job for the management team that is too heavily involved within the operation. Of course, this is the easy part not only for the management but sometimes also for the teams. Indeed, receiving the answer and direction and proceeding on a path accordingly means not taking accountability. Therefore, it is likely that a manager who gives the answers every time may not ensure a sense of ownership in her/his team. So, the leader should constantly remind herself: what questions can I ask to increase the awareness and sense of ownership in the teams? This is a new habit; asking questions instead of giving answers. And frankly, the only way to acquire this new habit is practicing it frequently. If the manager is willing to in the beginning, and thereafter insistent on, moving away from being the answerer, increasing the sense of ownership in the teams, and letting the team feed off her/his questions, then such manager can easily overcome this process.
It should be remembered that no organization can evolve beyond the perspectives and world views of its own leaders. Therefore, the success of the transformation is related to the development mindset of the leaders in the company and subsequently of all individuals therein. Hence, it is important that individuals can reflect on their own actions. For this, the managers should work on their own awareness, receive feedback frequently, and be open to and feed off external factors. If you cannot get out of the intensive tempo you created only in your company and the similar personal circle, then sorry to say this but unfortunately it means you have “become a dinosaur”! You cannot develop yourself by staying all the time in the comfort zone you have gotten used to.
In summary, a successful Agile Leader must invest in her/his own intellectual capacity. Do not be one of those typical, old-fashioned managers who say that they cannot participate in 1 full-day training because of being too busy, or who complain of not having time to spend in conferences or external communities again by using the excuse of being too busy!