Agile leadership is key to adopt agile ways of working

24 March 2021 3 min. read

With the fourth industrial revolution well under way, organisations of every shape and size are having to adapt quickly to heightened demand for digitalised business models. According to B2E Consulting Principal Kiran Chitta, organisations can better equip themselves for change readiness if they can adopt agile modes of leadership.

Every sector, and all business functions are being affected by digitalisation, uncertainty and the constant need to ‘transform.’ If anything, this has accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, with companies having to ramp up their digital infrastructure to accommodate working from home.

Alongside added political, economic, social, regulatory and environmental uncertainty, then, the current era of digital disruption means that agility is essential to the survival and success of many organisations. To this end, a recent workshop saw B2E Consulting Principal Kiran Chitta tell professionals from across the UK that agility is no longer “a nice to have but a must have” for global businesses.

Kiran Chitta, Principal at B2E Consulting

Agile working is a way of working in which an organisation empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints – to optimise their performance and to do their best work. From a functional perspective, agile is all about working in short iterations (‘sprints’) towards an end-goal, instead of the traditional big-bang approach.

Chitta highlighted that the most important thing to remember is that agile working is not a chaotic back-and-forth – it still requires leadership, but it is very different to the traditional qualities of management. Agility requires the right balance of approaches. By neither micromanaging, nor creating total freedom, agile leadership is the craft of creating the right context for self-organisation.

“I always believe that there is a difference between leadership and management,” Chitta explained. “Management is about top-down responses to new issues when they arise. Leadership is about setting an example, but also empowering other members of an organisation besides its senior members to take action.”

According to Chitta – an organisational psychologist who specialises in leadership, strategic change, organisation design and development – agile leadership encompasses four areas. Leadership agility requires a holistic approach to leading and managing complex change; while secondly, cultural agility takes this further as it means leaders must be able to coach and build shared clarity in an organisation.

This can help the third area, build business agility, moving towards flexible organisation structures and operating models offering adaptability, speed and efficiency; while career agility means the organisation gears its performance system toward promoting talent on the basis of agility.

Ultimately, organisations that successfully adopt agile working foster an environment “where teams collaborate, learn from each other, get quick feedback from users and are focused on quality and continuous learning.”