Sooner or later, most founders arrive at the point where their startups grow up and they have to hire their first employees to acquire the necessary skills for the next steps in the startup growth cycle. Which means that founders quickly and quite organically grow out of their operative roles into managing ones. The question they will have to answer is simple: What kind of leader do I want to be?
The startup environment is all quick shifts in direction, pivots, and spontaneous changes which is why it can be highly useful to go for an agile approach to leading your employees – welcome to Agile Leadership!
What is Agile Leadership?
Agile leadership is a type of leadership that is meant to handle fast-paced changes in condition and to promote innovation and self-organizing skills. Such a type of leadership is especially relevant in a startup environment which is prone to sudden changes and uncertain conditions that require quick thinking and acting.
An important aspect of agile leadership is supporting the self-organizing skills and personal responsibility of team members. Instead of maintaining a rigid hierarchy and leading through directive instructions, agile leaders rely on the strengths, skills, and resources of their team members. That way, teams can solve problems on their own and adapt to changing conditions.
Another aspect of agile leadership is transparent communication within the team. Agile leaders use regular meetings as a space where all team members can share their ideas and opinions and be part of the decision-making process. Through open communication, trust is built up within the team and creates a shared understanding of the company’s goals and priorities.
Agile leadership can also help improve the innovational strength of a startup. Open communication and the promotion of personal responsibility in team members strengthen the team’s resolve to develop new ideas and engage changes head-on.
Productivity software giant Basecamp uses an Agile leadership approach that also focuses on promoting self-organizing skills and personal responsibility in employees. The company has no hierarchies but relies on small, self-organized teams instead whoc work autonomously and make their own decisions. This approach strengthens the employee’s engagement with the company’s goals and their ability to innovate. They feel that they are a valued part of the company.
Another important aspect in Basecamp’s approch is helping to create work-life-balance and flexibility. The company has flexible working hours and gives employees the opportunity to work from anywhere. These measures have not only contributed to greater employee satisfaction but also led to higher productivity and creativity.
All in all, Basecamp has created a successful and sustainable company culture characterized by personal responsibility, innovation, and flexibility through the application of Agile Leadership. The company was able to hold their own in the contested project management software market and is nowadays one of the most well-known software providers in that area.
The Golden Rules of Agile Leadership
If you want to lead your team according to the principles of agile leadership, there are several aspects you must keep in mind:
- Clear Goals and Priorities
It is important that all team members clearly understand the company’s goals and priorities so that they can act accordingly. Agile leaders should consequently hold regular meetings to discuss goals and priorities with the team and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
- Transparent Communication
Open and transparent communication is a key component of agile leadership. Leaders should regularly communicate important information to their team members so that the whole team is up to date.
- Trust and Personal Responsibility
Agile leaders put their trust into their team members and encourage personal responsibility. Accordingly, leaders should give team members the freedom to make decisions and solve problems on their own.
- Flexibility and Adaptability
In the fast-paced nature of the startup scene, quickly adapting to changing conditions is essential. Which requires agile leaders to be prepared to react fast when conditions change and to adapt to new challenges that arise.
- Feedback and a Culture of Learning
Agile leadership should foster a culture of continuous learning and of giving feedback. Leader should therefore talk regularly with their team members about the challenges they face and tasks they handled really well and work together with the team so that everyone is improving continuously.
Agile leadership offers a flexible and future-minded strategy of leadership that is able to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing demands of the market and that utilizes the full potential of the company’s team members; all of which is highly relevant for startup founders.
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