I Really Need a Haircut…
- I really need a haircut; really, I need what my good friend Yves would call an ‘emergency haircut’. I could put it in bunches but I am just not that flamboyant!
- I’d really like to see friends, just to have one of those no nonsense, shoot the breeze kind of conversations; one of those uninhibited, good friend to friend chats.
- I would like to see my family, like all families a lot has happened over the past 12 months, some good and some not so good.
- I would really, really, like some sensible buzz-word-free stuff about leadership. The latest one to get up my nose is ‘Agile Leadership’. I suppose the opposite of agile is clumsy and, as Ted Hastings from Line of Duty would say, ‘Mother of God. who wants that?’ Promoting the opposite of something no one wants is hardly radical.
So, what is Agile? Well, a bit like families, some of it is good and some of it is not so good. For example, one article referred to a ‘classic piece’ from 6 years ago in which they advocate removing dedicated parking, and executives talking to staff over tea or lunch. Now that may have been news 20 years ago but that is distinctly archaic in 2021. The thing about leadership and all the stuff that is written about it is that it is a contested concept1. A recent internet search on “leadership” produced 2.8 billion hits. It is a contested concept yet there are elements that stand the test of time and experience; whatever badge they are given.
Let’s look at some of those elements.
- People: there is that great quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt “People don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care” and Admiral Nelson was renowned for his affection for his sailors and trust in his officers2. Bottom line from my experience is that people follow people. So, maybe ask yourself ‘Why should someone follow me?’
- Delegation, empowerment, call it what you like, as long as tasks and authority are explicitly given together you provide freedom of action. How well do you do that?
- Flexibility: the military talk about mission command where the purpose is clear and staff are provided the freedom to act. An important concept that allows that flexibility is knowing your bosses, bosses’ goals,….do you?
- Review: what did you intend to happen, what actually happened and what did you learn? Call it an experimental approach if you like, but it’s not casual or sloppy, it’s about defining what outcome you expect to happen and then assessing what happened in reality and adapting and learning accordingly.
- Outputs not inputs, this means making the purpose clear, clarify ‘why’ and have defined output measures and don’t micro manage.
- Succession Planning, a key role of any leader is not only delivering results today but also developing their staff and future leadership pipeline for tomorrow. In my roles in the private sector, I was measured on this as acutely as I was on my financial results. If I was not a ‘net exporter of talent’ I was not doing my duty to make the organisation sustainable. I greatly enjoyed seeing some of my staff move on to roles in all the major continents of the world. Not only is that very enjoyable and rewarding it also creates a legacy. Are you a ‘net exporter of talent’?
So, let’s forget buzz words and new badges and focus on the stuff that helps us be better leaders. You might like to ask yourself some of the questions I have posed and please do let me know what you think about Agile Leadership.
- The Group Approach to Leadership Testing, Harris H, 1949 Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
- Nelson’s Way, Leadership Lessons from the Great Commander, Jones S & Gosling J, 2005; Nicholas Brealey Publishing