Agile Leadership is Principle-Centered Leadership

Do you think it is possible for an organization to be Agile if its leader is not Agile? This question is a little deeper than you might think. Do you think it is possible for someone to be a leader of an Agile organization if they are not personally Agile in the leadership of their own life?

I know of no empirical studies of this question, but based on my own decades of observational research, the answer to both questions is “No.” As someone who’s been at this a little longer than most, I will tell you that Agile leadership is principle-centered leadership. It is principle-centered leadership, first on a personal level and then on an organizational level—and the former is a prerequisite for the latter.

It is a question of stimulus and response. There is a school of thought that believes that a person’s response to a stimulus (e.g., an idea, a complaint, a challenge, a surprise, a request, an inquiry, etc.) is determined by their mood and/or their conditioning. The assertion is that if a request, for example, is made of someone who is in a crappy, or angry, or cheerful mood, their response will reflect their crappy, angry or cheerful mood. When it comes to a person’s conditioning, three forms are typically cited: genetic, psychic and environmental. Genetic conditioning means that you have been conditioned by nature (i.e., your grandparents did it to you). Psychic conditioning means that you have been conditioned by how you were nurtured (i.e., your parents did it to you). Environmental conditioning means that you have been, and continue to be, conditioned by your circumstances (i.e., your boss/spouse/whatever is doing it to you).

Typically, this is true; a person’s response to a stimulus will, indeed, default to their mood and/or conditioning. But—and this “but” is the ballgame—we each have the power to short circuit that knee-jerk response and be more deliberate in choosing our response. In fact, I contend that this power to choose our response is the single greatest power that an individual has—should they decide to develop it. Like a muscle, this power will grow stronger if it is exercised, and it will atrophy if it is neglected. Developing the strength of character—the personal leadership—to short-circuit your default response based on your mood and/or conditioning, and to make the conscious decision to respond based on your principles and values—to subordinate your moods and conditioning to your principles and values—is a fundamental strength of personal leadership, and it is a characteristic of an Agile leader.

Developing this “choose your response” muscle, develops personal leadership. Including Agile principles and values among your personal principles and values, cultivates Agile leadership. Agile leadership is principle-centered leadership.