Agile leadership is not about the tactics, tools or techniques associated with agile methodology. It’s about engaging in activities that show a commitment to individuals and interaction over processes and tools, working solutions over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. It’s also about embedding systems into your organization’s culture that result in your team members’ operating in accordance with those values.

To move in that direction, learning leaders must take steps to embody agile values in their behavior and to embed them into their team’s operations. Here’s an example of how a training manager might embody the agile value of “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.”

Embodying Agile Values

Ellen is the new training director for XYZ Corp who is having her first status meeting with her new team. The purpose of the meeting is for her to gain a sense of the current project workload and the status of those projects. The team members enter the meeting room with laptops to display their updates.

Sharon, the training manager, is the first to report. She looks nervous and apologizes for not having time to update her metrics in the project management software because of connectivity issues.

Ellen notices the body language of her other direct reports, sensing that connectivity is a common issue. She walks to a whiteboard in the room, picks up a marker and suggests that it would be easier to have everyone write their status updates on the whiteboard. This suggestion sends the message that the information is what’s important, not the process or the tools.

Embedding Agile Values

Embedding agile values into your organization means inserting policies or practices that support agile values. Here’s how Ellen might embed that value:

After leaving her first meeting with her direct reports, Ellen senses that the process her team is using and the technology for reporting project statuses might hinder progress and have a negative effect on internal and external relationships. She calls a meeting with her team members and solicits their perspective on the problem. She lets them know that she values individuals and interactions over processes and tools and asks them to come back to her in a week with some suggestions for policies and practices that would promote that value.

Using this approach will empower the team to develop a solution that they believe in and take ownership of. In this way, agile leadership promotes self-organizing teams. This approach supports such a view.

Becoming an agile leader does not require that you become an expert in the tactics, tools or techniques associated with agile methodology, but it does necessitate participation in activities that show a commitment to individuals and interaction, working solutions, customer collaboration, and responding to change. Agile leaders also embed systems in their organization’s culture that result in team members’ operating in a way that shows a commitment to those same values.