Agile Leadership Laid Bare

Blog post
By Pam Ashby | 27 July 2017

The joint mission of the Agile Business Consortium and The Naked Leader organisation is to promote organisational and leadership agility – and their launch webinar demonstrated collaboration at its very best. It was clear in the webinar that a magic is unleashed when experts with different perspectives take the time to share, come together, and produce a fresh outlook.

David Taylor summed it up: “The Consortium is research based while we at Naked Leader specialise in simplicity – we’re quirky and fast.”

It’s a powerful combination with which to tackle the uncertainty, fragility, and ambiguity of our increasingly fast-moving world.

Ed Holt, founding Chairman of the Consortium, recalled that the Consortium was first established around the principle of ‘packaged common sense’. Clearly the Consortium and Naked Leader are on common ground.

In the webinar, Ed and David took over 100 attendees through the Consortium’s Nine Principles of Agile Leadership – the outcome of robust research and collaboration from expert practitioners in the Agile Culture and Leadership Community. In doing this, they clarified the value of this strategic initiative to help organisations benefit from increased agility, results and success.

If you missed the event, you can access the recorded webinar here.

 Here is a simplified, ‘just the bare essentials’ summary:

 The Nine Principles of Agile Leadership

1. Actions speak louder than words

Leadership is about showing people the way. You can only do this from within – you need to ‘be the change’ you wish to bring about in others. This means working on yourself first, perhaps through coaching to help you realise your potential.

    David Taylor confirmed: “Leadership is about being yourself and helping others to be the same. Look for what you can do and not what you can’t. Work towards your dream until someone tells you to stop, and they won’t”.

    2. Improved quality of thinking leads to improved outcomes

      Ed Holt highlighted: “Research shows that organisations with mindfulness programmes demonstrate increased focus, more effective relationships and improved self-confidence”.

      Our brains are hard-wired to work towards quick decisions to keep us alive. “Never dismiss gut feel,” David advised, “This is based on a powerful summary of everything you’ve ever experienced and learned”.

      3. Organisations improve through effective feedback

      The ability to give and receive effective feedback is a number one trait of a world class team. Teams should nurture the ability to be open, honest and respectful to one another. Avoid speaking ‘behind the backs’ of others, and say ‘thank you’ when feedback is given.

      4. People require meaning and purpose to make work fulfilling

      Research shows that up to 40% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. It’s important to align your personal values with those of your organisation and to see ‘something of yourself’ in the organisation’s goals.

      David Taylor’s ‘ideal staff manual’ reads:

      • Be yourself
      • Have fun
      • Ask

      5. Emotion is a foundation to enhanced creativity and innovation

      Emotions are a positive trait and an important part of the human experience. David referred to the New Scientist article that stated ‘The idea that human beings are rational is risible’. We make decisions based on the simple formula of moving ourselves away from threat and towards reward – pain and pleasure.

      6. Leadership lives at all levels of the organisation

      Ed stressed the role of the Agile Leader is to encourage leadership, and to mentor people to realise their aspirations at every level of an organisation and out into wider society. For David, this means working to unlock and unleash all the skills, talents, and passions in all the people that we already have.

      7. Leaders at all levels devolve appropriate power and authority

      A higher quality of work, productivity and job satisfaction tends to result when people have autonomy to act in the way that they believe is best. This gets decisions closer to the customer, and closer to those with the most detailed knowledge of an issue. Speaking at last year’s Agile Business Conference, James Timpson, Chief Executive of Timpson Group, confirmed that his retail colleagues have only two rules: “You put the money in the till, and you look the part.” Other than this, responsibility is in the hands of the staff that work in the Timpson retail outlets, rather than with senior management.

      8. Collaborative communities achieve more than individuals 

      “Trust is the glue of strong collaboration” Ed observed. For collaboration to work effectively, it’s important to respect other viewpoints and avoid triggering defensive behaviour by appearing to criticise. A strong tip from The Naked Leader organisation is simply to replace “No, but” with “Yes, and”. This avoids obvious disagreement and positions new information as building on what has been previously said.

      True to the principles of Agile, collaborative communities extend beyond the internal organisation right out to the world of the customer, and beyond into society.

      9. Great ideas come from all levels in the organisation 

      Those closest to the problem are often best placed to create a solution. Those that have an idea are often best placed to take it forward. Innovative thinking can come from anywhere in an organisation and an Agile Leader will respond with openness, positivity and a willingness to praise.


      Together Naked Leader and the Agile Business Consortium will be delivering ‘The Agile Naked Leader’ – a package of training sessions, workshops and seminars to ensure that public and private sector organisations become more Agile in all aspects of their business, from culture and leadership to strategy, projects and of course, results.

      Contact us to find out more

      David Taylor and Katie Taylor presented 'Fast-Track Behavioural Change to deliver 3 times more…' at the Agile Business Conference in London, October 4 & 5 2017


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