Agile Leadership: Values & Pitfalls

What to Read First: Welcome to the Agile Leadership Practice

My mother’s Latest Joke

This good-looking, young prince goes to a neighboring kingdom to ask for the king’s daughter’s hand in marriage.

He starts by saying “Sir, I lover your daughter and I want to marry her. I live to make the world a better place. I am kind, generous, very hard working, rich beyond imagination, I have great allies all over the world, and I will be devoted to your daughter till the day I die. I just have one weakness.”

“What is it?” The king begs to know with his eyes wide open as he ponders his great fortune for having gotten such a fantastic suiter for his daughter.

“My only weakness is that I lie a lot.”

Moral of the Story:

Even Prince Charming has a kink in his armor. So it is essential to know the strengths and weaknesses first.

JEK Vocabulary Parade20090626-556

Eyes Wide Open

Agile Leadership is successful in part because it turns actions into experiments that are used to inform future decisions. “I don’t know” is not a bad thing as long as it is important enough to be followed by “let’s find out.”


  • We are always stronger together
  • Move fast and take calculated risks
  • Everything is an experiment
  • Make Data-informed decisions
  • Empower decisions to be made as low as possible in the organization
  • Provide a safe environment to learn from successes and failures of those decisions
  • First: Understand WHY and HOW you are doing WHAT you are doing!
  • Challenging existing assumptions is encouraged
  • Everyone should know the customer, regardless of their position in the organization
  • Think of the customer first and last, but don’t insist on always making them happy in the short term

Inherent Risks :

  1. Just Want Answer: Some teams just want to know the answers to their problems, and then quickly move on. Early on with this process, it can be frustrating when individuals and first-line managers are being walked through the WHY and HOW every time they have a question small or large. Remember you are teaching them to fish!
  2. Loving The Customer: Teams can get emotionally attached to the customer and become vested in the customer’s success. That means teams are much less fungible, so before they start to service another constituency, they need to go through the WHY, HOW, WHAT journey for that new constituency.
  3. Decisions Demand a Why: Teams can be much less tolerant of an answer or instruction without rationalizing back to WHY and HOW. They will expect an obvious rationale for the instructions they get if they are not well-aligned with the WHY, HOW, WHAT.
  4. Need a Break: This methodology can be stressful for members of the organization because the focus and discipline required can be intense. Therefore, it is essential to give teams some time to work on other projects that allow them to recharge.


It is tough for leaders to conced power because it is perceived to be a weakness. Successful, scalable organizations are most resilient when they teach members of the organization how decisions should be made so many can be made effectively without having to wait for someone more senior to make the decision for them. That fundamentally means that leadership does not know all the answers up front and leadership must concede some decisions and trust the organization to make the decision and learn from their consequences.

Share your experience when this has worked or not worked for you.

Related: Start with Your WHY (Your Motivation)

Related: The Most Influential Book You Never Heard Of


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