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Agile leadership: why everyone is jumping on the bandwagon now - and 6 reasons to stay away from it

"We have to become more agile!"Meanwhile, many board members and managing directors call out. And they don't mean software development or project management. The subject of" agility "has long since left the IT and project management environment and is right at the top of the agenda of many companies. But hardly anyone knows what The author and consultant Svenja Hofert explains the approach of agile leadership and explains why it is not something for everyone.

"Now put it into practice!"Board members and managing directors like to delegate this to overburdened HR departments. The trend is omnipresent: Anyone looking for an" agile leadership seminar "on the Internet now gets a flood of offers objectives ", that is, goal-oriented management approaches of the industrial age. But unlike management by objectives, agile management does not have a clear and immediately catchy concept. Even those who are supposed to implement the whole thing often do not even know what it means. Many expect something like a magic drink.

When I give lectures on "agile leadership" or give workshops, the question always comes up "What's new about it?"And when I say then"Nothing"Some are disappointed. It would be easier if there was a screw that needs to be turned. But agile leadership is complex and multi-layered. It supports employees in reacting quickly and creatively to the changing needs of customers and markets It is therefore rather a mindset, an attitude and logic of thought and action. It uses an open toolbox with coaching tools that improve collaboration, as well as methods for dealing productively with complexity.

Some of the ideas behind agility are more than 50 years old. Even then, management thinkers and scientists recognized that complexity would increase and with it the controllability of companies. The image of man also changed: Theory X by Douglas McGregor dates from the 1960s [1]. She assumes that there are two different ways of thinking. One understands people as basically willing to learn and ready to work (Y), the other as lazy and work-shy (X). X-people have to be controlled, Y-people unfold when they get the space. Agile leadership is based on the latter, as the self-organization anchored in the core requires exactly such Y-people.

But there is no single button to enable and force this. Just as every person is different, every corporate culture is unique and so is every team. If you understand agile leadership as an both-and-approach, it is not a tool, but a whole box. If you understand it in advance as a mindset, i.e. logic of thought and action, there is also no hammer and nail that can always be operated in the same way. The mindset considers people, team, culture, context and situation - and finds appropriate approaches, but no blanket solutions.

But what is agility at its core?

Agility means adapting flexibly to changes and reacting to them quickly - for example with innovations. Self-organization is an important element. Teams that don't first submit a thousand applications and have to work their way through hierarchies can act and react faster. You can also innovate more easily.

Some think they are already agile and are basically looking for ongoing self-affirmation.

This ensures the survival of a company that would otherwise quickly perish in the rapidly changing environment of the age of digitization. However, I have noticed that small companies in particular underestimate the dangers and want to adapt agility all too quickly. Some want to become more agile in order to solve problems that have completely different causes, such as conflicts or the shortage of skilled workers. Others think they are already agile and are basically looking for ongoing self-affirmation. Everyone wants simple solutions, preferably the aforementioned magic potion. Some want the "XL" solution right away and are then overwhelmed with the implementation - mostly because they find that a mindset cannot simply be exchanged.