Role of Leaders in Transformations
Leaders play a critical role in any Digital or Agile transformation. This post discusses their role and key challenges.
First of all, let's discuss what do they need to do?
They need to do the following:
Ensure there is a compelling vision, the WHY!
Communicate this vision with consistency and communicate it often
Build the capabilities in their teams
Removes impediments to progress
Create an environment where individuals and teams can thrive
Here is the key point…
This comes with a warning as it is rather blunt…
When I ask leaders what their current organisation looks like. Structure, hierarchy, culture etc. They describe it in detail, perhaps they draw something like this.
Then, I ask these leaders what they want their future organisation to look like. They are usually quite good at describing it. Self-organising, cross functional teams, motivated and empowered team members, decentralised decision making etc. Perhaps less details than the current picture but still good enough. Something like this.
Details of the actual shape and constituent parts are not important at this stage. The key point I raise with them is that their teams need to change, they’ll need to adopt, perhaps learn new things etc. At this point, we are on the same page.
Then I ask them what do they need to change about themselves to fit into the new organisation. I usually get a blank look. Like, what do you mean?
Well, if this current type of organisation requires a particular type of leadership, then a new organisation with decentralised decision making, empowered, cross functional teams etc. requires a different leadership style.
This is when the penny drops....
Great leaders are aware of this and adopt. They learn, they work hard, they seek feedback, they keep their ears close to the ground.
The fact of the matter is that not all leaders succeed in making the transition. Some will not not want to, some will try and fail.
This is important to understand.
A new type of organisation requires a new leadership style!
Now we can be too hard on senior leadership.
Let’s have some empathy for them. Remember, these are the same people who are leading the organisation through the transformation as well as managing day-to-day challenges. And they also need to learn to lead their teams differently among everything else. This isn’t easy. It requires huge amount of self-awareness and a lot of hard work.