Sooner or later it is certain that the change in an organization requires new agile management methods. Have you found that the classic leadership instruments have had their day in the complex environment? But what do you have to consider when it comes to agile leadership? What central role do you play in effective leadership in your organization?
Self-organized teams require suitable agile management methods
Maybe you have already taken the first agile steps. And you have had the experience that collaboration according to Scrum hierarchies quickly leads to bottlenecks.
New rules apply in agile contexts. Agility makes it: the customer: in the: m new boss: in. Especially in your teams, there is important expertise: to meet their needs. If they work according to agile principles such as self -organization, cross-functionality & Co., you need a suitable agile management concept. So much is clear. But what should you consider and what central role do you play in effective leadership in your organization?
Distributed, shared or lateral leadership: synonyms for an agile guide method?
You have already asked yourself: What exactly is behind the various management concepts that are all thrown around in the context of agile leadership? Are distributed, shared, and lateral leadership really synonyms for one and the same concept?
Well, as is well known, the devil is in detail – or rather: the agile angel. First of all: there is no general distinction between the approaches. We orientate ourselves to Pearce & Conger (2003) and understand the concepts mentioned:
- Distributed leadership: Distributed leadership is often confused with the leadership of geographically distributed teams. However, distributed leadership says: management responsibility is distributed to several people or defined roles: procedural, professional, and disciplinary management forms.
- Shared leadership: If the leadership is shared, however, the understanding of leadership is subject to situational and dynamic. Members of a team are “empower value” and take responsibility for the situational occasions. Leadership arises when others follow. Here there is a distinction to the static distributed tour with fixed explicit roles: shared leadership is dynamic: depending on the situation and competence of individual team members, the roles change.
- Lateral leadership: In the context of agile leadership, you may have heard of lateral leadership more often. In contrast to shared and distributed leadership, lateral leadership also means “leadership from the side”. It’s not about distributing guidance to (several) people. In this management concept, disciplinary power is split from the leadership role and is guided through professional and procedural expertise. You can often find such leadership roles in project management and in the role of project management. As a lateral manager, you guide you through expertise and trust and thus at eye level. Incidentally, eye level is a connecting element of all three approaches described.
Which is the agile angel among the agile leadership methods?
As so often: it depends! First of all, all approaches mentioned – especially in comparison to vertical leadership – are suitable for agile companies and merge at one or the other. Depending on the need for agility, distributed leadership makes sense for several reasons. On the one hand, you need different skills and expertise with multi-layered and knowledge-intensive tasks.
Distributed leadership can create synergies of the various strengths of people. On the other hand, defined roles provide orientation, which is particularly helpful in medium and larger companies. Many companies distribute leadership on Scrum roles and distinguish self-ities, procedural, human, professional, and self-organizing leadership roles, as the illustration shows.
You can find a precise description of rolling and competence descriptions in the blog article by André Häusling on the topic “What is actually agile leadership?” Part 1 and part 2.
Relief from distributed management tasks
After all, leadership is also an individual matter. With the different roles in the distributed tour, you have a good chance of personally finding yourself – and also bringing in your interests and skills. The juggling of the many requirements and expectations of one and the same person is finally offset by relief.
Each leadership role focuses on its own management task. This creates space for focus. Keller (2021) describes particularly strikingly in his book “everyone -ship”, such as leadership, every: n concerns – without disciplinary responsibility and regardless of status, title or career. Each of us always leads – privately and professionally – at least one person: their own.
Distribution good – everything good?
However, distributed leadership is not a panacea. Above all, this agile management method needs good framework conditions and consistent backing on the part of the management in order to be able to harvest valuable fruits. If hierarchies are broken down, managers fear that power and status are often feared. Resistance is the result.
Newly introduced leadership roles sometimes also raise ambiguities about responsibilities and decision-making processes. An equally great challenge is to keep the priorities of different leadership roles in balance and pull together. Are you wondering how to overcome such challenges? We have put together a few typical scenarios and good practices that illustrate the practice of distributed leadership.
Agile management methods in practice
Practical example 1
- Situation: Steffen has so far been a leader and is now releasing the professional leadership to the product owner Lisa. The disciplinary power still lies with Steffen. Recently, employees have been complaining about tornness and disorientation. Steffen wonders what that could be.
- Problem: There is no collaboration in the management team.
- Good Practice: Steffen and Lisa are not in a hierarchical relationship. In weekly meetings, they coordinate their goals and priorities with each other and perform synchronously with employees: inside. A participatory target image helps all leadership roles as well as the team with orientation. In the event of conflicts, the Scrum Master Sven can be effective as a conflict mediator.
Practical example 2
- Situation: Simon heads the area IT. He decided with the team to work in Scrum and distribute responsibility. So you can finally react adequately and quickly to the requirements of customers: inside. Area manager HR Pia has been perceiving the IT area for a long time as a shadow organization with all workarounds and is upset that the HR area is not integrated.
- Problem: The HR instruments developed in Pia’s area provide no benefits for the IT area of Simon for the given situation of the distributed leadership. So it takes much too long for the positions of IT specialists to be occupied. This can lead to competitive losses in the long term.
- Good Practice: HR and IT exchange their respective perceptions and needs openly. Together they develop new HR instruments that are more suitable for the needs of the IT area, such as peer recruiting. A People Coach from the Pias area serves as a further leadership role and supports all questions about “man leadership”.
Why metareflexion in distributed management teams is so important
In distributed management teams, the various leadership roles can focus on their task. This is also called concentration on working in the system. At the same time, however, it is at least as important for you to step out of your bubble again and again: Does what you do fit your entire organization? Your teams must be able to assess the consequences of a single decision or action for the entire system.
The overall strategic structure and thus the meaning and purpose of the company are also called “metareflexion”. Metareflexion enables work on the system and is currently one of the most important but at the same time most demanding competencies of the 21st century.
Area management with great leverage in agile management concepts
The path to a functioning distributed management organization can have stumbling blocks. Nevertheless, good news for you here: As a division management, for example, you can generally achieve large leverage by designing the right framework for agile management methods.
Let’s stay with metareflexion, working on the system. From your role, you can support the self-organized teams and all other leadership roles in keeping an eye on the whole thing. This enables employees: inside, building entrepreneurial skills and turning them into intrapreneurs: inside. What can you do specifically?
For example, introduce “metareflexion rounds” or “balcony sessions”. This help to make the employee visible inside the specific contribution they make to the big strategic whole. This leads to more job satisfaction but is also very central to successful corporate transformation.
A strong “why” and consistent life
A common orientation is very crucial that distributed leadership works. Regular meeting structures also offer you a good option. In order to really successfully establish distributed leadership, you need two things above all: a strong Why and a consistent presence! The Why, for example, helps you to develop a common target picture. As a compass, it promotes the cooperation of leadership roles and pulling together.
This is particularly important if your role owners have no clarity about the areas of responsibility within their roles, but also in delimitation to the other leadership roles. It is important at this point that everyone participates in the target image development.
If you yourself act as a promoter: in the change and present what is recorded in the target picture, you can coincide a very decisive dimension of the agile transformation: the corporate culture. Consistently thought also means becoming part of the distributed management system. Perhaps it also includes rethinking the aspect of disciplinary leadership …
Clarify and sharpen your own role
Discuss this “Role Model Canvas” with your team and use it as a blueprint for discussing all roles with your team. This creates their clearance of roles: an important prerequisite for distributed leadership.