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There is much philosophising about Agile Leadership in itself and Agile Organisations in general. Slogans such as “Agility”, “VUCA” and “Holacracy” are therefore on the lips of every executive, management consultant and adviser. Agility is not about dressing “old management wine up in new bottles”, nor is it about some new trend in corporate consulting.


For example, managers at various hierarchical levels have never had to cooperate so strongly as they do today. Digitisation and automation bind us ever closer together, whether we like it or not. Never before have so many hierarchical levels in companies and organisations had to debate and reach decisions, on an equal footing, so quickly as today. This ever more complex working environment has caused a management crisis.

In this situation, agility provides a coherent concept for modern leadership.  Agile management solves errors and false conclusions of traditional management.

What is crucial is how companies and organisations deal with these obvious changes. For example, through Agile Management – that is, changeability, through easy optimisation of established models for success – or through pure waiting. Active participation in the changes is often the better option, being the most future-proof solution.


These irreversible changes began some 25 years ago. The causes were, among other things, the end of the Cold War (1989), the global roll-out of the Internet as a mass medium (1991), and the resulting economic dynamism. The globalisation that could already be witnessed in the 1960s was massively accelerated by the Internet and the resulting digital revolution. Technological advances and innovations in products and processes (e.g. in logistics and telecommunications) are causes of globalisation and continue to fuel it. Other changes such as automation and digitisation have unimaginably strong impacts on companies and organisations today – and will continue to be the determining factors in the future.

Anything that can be automated will be automated. 

Everything that can be digitised will be digitised.

Due to the changes described, the environment in which companies and organisations move is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This means that there are unpredictable fluctuations, fundamental uncertainties, complex relationships and ambiguous raw data. The breadth of these fluctuations, the quality of the uncertainties, the complexity of the connections, and the sheer amount of data are considerably greater today than just one generation ago. The resulting uncertainty is not a phase, but a permanent state of reality. The world, as we know it, is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – and will remain so for the foreseeable future.


Uncertain times mean change. Change requires adaptability, nimbleness, flexibility, changeability and dynamism in leadership. Turbulent times require nimble management models. On the other hand, leadership that is too static is ineffective, not overly efficient, and in some cases even highly dangerous, for example, when key innovations or global trends are identified too late.

Agile Leadership makes it possible to anticipate trends, opportunities and risks in good time.

Agile Leadership significantly improves the active co-creation of change processes.

Agile Management allows one to adapt to organisational forms that arise quickly and  create new organisational forms.

Agile Leadership during turbulent times ensures that companies and organisations cope as best as possible with external and internal changes and disruptions. Every company, every organisation, is a psychological organism consisting of people and goods. This organism needs willingness to change, resilience and flexibility.


The list of concepts, approaches and marketing buzzwords surrounding Agile Leadership is long. Scrum, Design Thinking, Kanban, OKR, Lean Startup, Lean Management and Storytelling are certainly the best known terms and methods.

What agility is about at heart is actually very simple:

It is about actively shaping the necessary rethinking for collaborative work.

The rethink has already begun and continues to take place. Industrial production processes were the start (e.g. Kanban). Later, the changes reached the level of product design (e.g. Design Thinking), software development (e.g. Scrum) and corporate management (e.g. Lean Management). Most recently, this rethink is evident in people’s demands. They want a new working world that is defined by leadership at a distance, self-determined employees and flat hierarchies.

Lean Startup can be successfully applied to both spin-off companies and new start-ups. Storytelling is not only an important tool for advertising and external corporate communications – it is also of ever greater significance in agile processes, in employer branding and in internal crisis communication. OKR (objectives and key results) puts collaborative work with ambitious, common goals at the centre of a corporate culture with agile mindset – the way there is paved with easily achievable milestones.


The introduction of agile methods has an influence on corporate cultures with an agile mindset. The stiffer the processes, behaviours, and beliefs were previously, the more radically these encrusted structures are broken by agile procedures.

For many long-established organisations, this shift to the agile future means a fundamental paradigm shift and a change in values. For organisations with steep hierarchies, direct management and employees who are predominantly directed by others it is even a revolution.

Executives at all hierarchical levels need a clear vision of their future roles and a sufficient understanding of agile principles. The successful transition to agility requires intensive consultation and training for executives, so that they can take an active, motivated role in positively shaping the agile future. In case of doubt, established and as yet untouched beliefs and actions must also be radically questioned.

The establishment of agile leadership and agile management provides new areas of focus:

+ Interactions are more important than management tools

+ Individuals are more important than management processes

+ Reaction and anticipation skills are more important than adhering to plans

+ Trust culture is more efficient than control culture

+ Overarching goals are more important than micro-management

+ Room to act is more important than hard and fast rules

+ Interdisciplinary collaboration is better than delineating topic areas

+ Flexible willingness to learn is more important than static knowledge

+ Speed of learning is more important than the status of one’s learning

+ Self-responsibility is more important than external direction

+ Listening is more important than speaking

+ Conceiving possible scenarios is more important than planning

+ Problem solving is more important than problems

+ Teams are more important than the individual


Nimble companies, flexible networks and project-oriented organisational forms are continually gaining in importance. This trend is clear to see. In return, classic organisational forms that operate by means of instructions and supervision and generally hierarchical decision-making processes are losing ground.

Events and trends that have a significant impact on business processes and business decisions are hard to predict in a globalised, digitised, and therefore ever more closely connected world. This is why many companies still take a reactive, instinctive stance when it comes to customer wishes and the market.

A lot of potential is wasted through taking this purely reactive stance. Events and trends (such as the Trump election, the Brexit vote, the nuclear fuel tax ruling, industry 4.0, the internet of things) are actually difficult to predict. Establishing a clear prognosis is also not even the crucial point. More important is to be able to anticipate the main scenarios. An agile style of management, no matter whether in a company or other organisation, derives agilely implementable operational frameworks from established scenarios that can then be independently implemented on each relevant management level.

Agile Leadership and Agile Management bring self-responsibility and efficiency.

Agile management principles ensure that decisions up to a certain scope are reached in a manner that is fundamentally characterised by self-responsibility, and are thus efficient. It is only necessary to consult other decision-makers once very precisely defined limits have been reached.
Agile Leadership is not an end in itself, but is fully at the service of the organisation and its members (e.g. employees, shareholders, management). Agile Leadership only works when Agile Thinking and Agile Working are perceived as valuable.

Agile Management only takes effect when structures and people bring with them the necessary flexibility.

Doing without Agile Leadership: is “carry on as normal” an option?

The shift to agile leadership and management structures requires a good plan and a courageous entrepreneur. So far, however, there are not too many agile organisations that one can look to, as an entrepreneur or leader, as an example. The concept is therefore perfectly obvious:

Is “carry on as normal” the better solution in leadership culture and management? 

Waiting – without initiating changes – can still be a practicable approach these days. But future proof this “carry on as normal” attitude certainly is not. Sooner or later – apparently considerably sooner than predicted – external pressure for change (e.g. due to losing employees, competitors pulling ahead and changing markets) is too strong. By then, changes from within are needed in order to keep one’s organisation viable.

Basically, the paradigm shift from static organisation systems to agile leadership systems cannot be reversed. In the face of volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous circumstances, flexible leadership and modern leadership skills are crucial cornerstones of any future successful organisation. They are just as important as the structural (new and re-) design of the organisation itself. The appropriate leadership system can always be systematically derived from this organisational design.

At the same time, the triumph of agility is a great opportunity for companies that are ready for change. Through timely adaptation, one can, for example, gain a significant advantage over competitor organisations that are staying static.


Agile Leadership and Agile Management deliver practical, measurable successes for companies and organisations. Agile Leadership as part of a corporate culture with an agile mindset guarantees the operational, independent and effective implementation of meaningful individual measures in the day-to-day practice of companies and organisations.

These practical successes with customers can be achieved using successful agile projects and successfully implemented agile organisational structures:

  • Thanks to agile leadership in the mid-tier, the highest levels of management have more time and resources for senior management tasks, with a view to the future (Agile Leadership)
  • Management is actively shaped each day based on preferred, reactive behaviours (Agile Management)
  • Essential changes are made more quickly and meet with less resistance, since there is understanding on all decision-making levels (Agile Changeability)
  • Successful examples of agile leadership (for example on a project level) are inspiring and enable a cautious, gradual introduction of agile principles at the meta level (Agile Projects)
  • Trends and developments are better anticipated since the whole organisational apparatus is more flexible
  • This more flexible total structure can deal better with disruptive changes in business models
  • Operational decisions are reached swiftly and effectively on the appropriate operational level
  • Paths to decision-making that are too long, inefficient or too rigidly hierarchical are optimised or completely axed with the help of agile management
  • Agile structures shorten the length of time between necessary, updated strategic planning and successful implementation in the organisation
  • Agile management better meets the needs of today’s customers and markets
  • Agility strengthens the position of a company in lucrative, dynamic and competitive markets
  • Agile leadership is better suited to the needs of young, well-trained and career-oriented professionals who are looking for an attractive work environment
  • Agility strengthens the position of a company as an employer brand
  • The consequences of decisions and plans become more transparent in agile management processes
  • The often complex relationships between variables, data and project components become more visible
  • The better understanding of contexts and changes enables better and faster decisions
  • Thanks to agile strategies, market and business opportunities that present themselves are being identified earlier and are being taken advantage of more consistently
  • Risks and challenges are better dealt with thanks to timely analysis of probable and less probable scenarios
  • Necessary interventions are both better prepared and more quickly undertaken.

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