‘Tell me Alize, if organisations strive for Agility and want to get rid of hierarchical structures, is there still a place for managers?’ A pressing question and one of the first I got during a captivating discussion, at the time I was Business Partner of the Week at BNR, a Dutch business new radio station.
I regularly get this question and most people are surprised by my answer when I say: “Yes, there is!.” But bear with me here, as I follow that up by adding that it totally depends on what your thoughts are about leadership and managers; the role, the expectations, the ethos and so on. How are you organised and what is of value to your organisation?
Our perception of managers is sometimes a bit negative, but there are managers out there who are actually great leaders and do important work. And on the other side there are obviously leaders who are really bad examples of what you would like to see in your organisation. On top of that, you have to think of the work that is being done by managers. If this work is of value to the company and its customers, then who will take it on when this manager is no longer part of your new aspired Agile landscape?
The leadership complexity
In a society that becomes more and more demanding almost on a daily basis, leading can sometimes seem like a Mission Impossible. When you Google ‘leadership’, you find over 50 distinct leadership styles. I often wonder: Did we somehow and perhaps unconsciously, wave a web of leadship complexity?
At the centre of this question lies our personal leadership style, a unique signature, that varies from one individual to another. While leading may be like second nature to one, for another it can be hard work. Have you ever caught yourself observing a colleague while thinking: “What makes his or hers approach so compelling? Can I integrate that also in my own style?”
Team dynamics and personality
The second part of this complexity lies in the vast diversity within your team and departments. Starters and seasoned professionals require both different guidance and support. And even mature teams can fall back into stormy dynamics when the team composition changes. Such a change asks for a different style of leading and coaching then before.
The quest for meaning and purpose
In this day and age, employees expect meaningful connections with their leaders and the organisations they work for, adding another layer to the complexity of leadership. The call for purpose-driven leadership, authentic relationships, meaningful work and adaptive work environments, doing good for society, grows louder and louder.
The confluence of leadership and transformation
As leaders you are entrusted to guide your organisation, and the people in it, through uncertain times and uncharted territories. You will find big topics on the agenda, like digitalisation, sustainability, climate change, and many unforeseen variables. This requires not mere Agility, but also a complete reimagination of your entire organisational system.
Does that feel familiar? That sense of that there is no going back (even if you wanted to), but also of not having entirely clear what is yet to come?
It’s precisely this liminal space that organisations find themselves in. A stage of so-called ‘unknown-unknowns.’ A stage that might feel uncomfortable. And a stage that might hinder your progress as well.
The logical response is to dive into what you do know. While guiding and coaching organisations, I often notice that leaders and managers immediately start to act. They rush forwards and start throwing their weight around. Thinking they should have all the answers and it’s up to them to fix it, right?
This era is no longer simply about trying to manage as you did before, showing of the power of your title or copy pasting what others do. Just firing managers or changing job titles and saying “we have a NO Boss culture here” will not make the future path clear either.
Changing the landscape for good, removing the complexity of the leadership web, is about a transformative future and transformational leadership. So, is there a key to getting there?
The essence of transformational leadership
Transformational leadership, having the skills, capabilities, mindset, and behaviour to guide people and change the foundation of your organisation towards your aspired future, is one of the cornerstones of Business Agility. This style of leadership is often referred to as agile- or servant leadership, which is actively geared towards changing the future and generating ideas
But, let’s keep it simple
Transformational leaders build relationships with their teams and employees. They believe that people are intrinsically motivated by higher ideals. They have a vision, they inspire, they are focused on development and lead employees towards the future. As role models, they set the example and put people at the heart of everything they do.
The path forward – changing the landscape
I think this definition is a great one. However, to decipher what is best and necessary in your organisation, it is necessary to reflect together with the people around you and consider some of the following, thought-provoking questions:
- What does leadership mean on different levels in our organisation?
- How does our envisioned leadership style manifest itself across organisational, departmental, team and individual capacities?
- What kind of behaviour, mindset, skills, and capabilities define leadership in our context?
- What are we aiming for with our organisation and how does this align with the unknown transformation journey ahread of us?
- Do we know the GAPs or starting point of our journey ahead?
- How do we bring the embracing of a culture of empowered leadership, from theory to practice?
As our world rapidly evolves, there is no unified best answer or universal blueprint. Even without a string of directors, leaders and managers, hierarchy may not vanish entirely in your organisation and to some extent, that is OK. Addressing above reflections will help you find an answer on what kind of leadership, will guide you, your organisation, and its people, into the future.
Now its your turn
If you want to change your current strategy to an approach that revolves around people and purpose, then our People Journey Circle framework can help you further. To learn more about this practical and proven framework, download our eBook – Leading with Agility.
This eBook offers you a wealth of tips and tricks you can experiment with to find your way of working and thinking. A human approach that revolves around people and purpose. That helps you create a differentiating and inclusive journey towards the future of work.
And if you are on the verge of an Agile Transformation or have you already initiated a transformation, but are still experiencing barriers? Chances are you can create a successful approach using this proven framework. I will be happy to help you develop transformation capabilities in your organisation. Get in touch to understand how we can support you.
Thanks for reading this blog and looking forward to your response!
If you think this is of value for others, then please share it with your network. I greatly appreciate that.
Transforming lives and business for good.
It’s my purpose to spark the Human X-factor and create purpose driven spaces where everybody is able to grow.
How? Put people & purpose at the heart of your organisation and drive your transformation People Led.
Passionated about living by purpose. Entrepreneur and founder of Twinxter and the TwinxterAcademy, Author of Purpose Driven People, creating business agility & sustainable growth, Co-author of Agile People Principles, Transformational Leadership in the fitness and physical activity sector & Emergence, Creator of the People Journey Circle, Keynote Speaker