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What does Agile leadership mean?

We all know how important leadership is in project management. A good project manager is essential in any team, keeping a project on course as it moves through the various stages of development. These individuals will have the necessary leadership skills to help them in their daily practices and inspire others, including confidence and a sense of organization.

But what about an Agile leader? What does Agile leadership mean? In an article for management consulting firm McKinsey, Aaron De Smet, Michael Lurie, and Andrew St. George wrote that Agile organizations require “a fundamentally different kind of leadership.” They believe that leaders need to extend their traditional competencies and evolve their behaviors to fully embrace Agile culture. 

Agile teams differ greatly from traditional ones. They do not follow a strict set of rules; instead, team members are encouraged to work autonomously. In this environment, the workflow is more fluid as deliverables are adapted to suit changing requirements. This is why Agile teams need a leader that is equipped to guide them through this process.

So, what do these Agile leaders look like?

Characteristics of Agile leaders

The following adjectives can be used to denote true Agile leadership:


Agile leaders can function well in a disruptive environment, taking project pivots and unexpected situations in their stride. They do not run from change — they embrace it. Change management is a large component of the Agile skillset, and project managers need to be able to address it with ease.


A positive outlook is a must in Agile leadership. Leaders must maintain a can-do attitude when dealing with change, so their team members view it as an opportunity, not a hindrance. An optimistic leadership style will also hopefully lead to a happier workforce


Good communication is one of the cornerstones of the Agile Manifesto. Agile leaders are open and honest with team members. They host regular meetings and 1:1s with their team, sharing relevant information, eliminating confusion, and ensuring that everyone is aligned towards the same goals.


In an Agile team structure, there is no rigid hierarchy. Though there are leaders and managers of varying roles, everyone is a team player. Agile leaders do not have a big ego, nor do they try to force a sense of authority. They are always willing to collaborate with their team to get the job done.


Finally, Agile leaders are curious people. They are lifelong learners and aim to look at problems through a different lens. They are eager to gather feedback from all project stakeholders and gain a fresh perspective. This is complementary to the Agile mindset, which is geared towards learning new things and continuous improvement.

In conclusion, Agile leadership means managing change effectively, creating a positive atmosphere, communicating regularly, being a team player, and staying curious.