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The power of agile leadership in building an engaged workplace community.

We sat down with Arif Bobat, the co-founder of Humble Associates, to discuss their approach to agile leadership – and how investing in it leads to happier, more engaged, and more productive teams.  

Around 75% of voluntary employee turnover is down to factors that leaders have the power to influence. Whether its down to micromanagement, toxic working cultures, a lack of trust in employees or simply not allowing them to play to their strengths, ineffective leadership can have a huge impact on the productivity – and longevity – of your team.

At Humble Associates, their approach is to combat this by practising humility: “Our name, ‘Humble’ was a very deliberate choice, because we’re all about humility in leadership. A lot of agile ways of working fail because leaders don’t take them seriously, or aren’t prepared to do the work themselves. They’re not prepared to model the right behaviours – but they expect everyone else to. Our approach is to encourage self-reflection, and help all members within a team to make positive changes.” Arif added: “Employers often aren’t ready to hear that there are things they could actually improve upon.”

“Employers often aren’t ready to hear that there are things they could actually improve upon.”

And yet, when implemented properly, agile leadership approaches can drastically alter the dynamic of an organisation. In fact, employees supervised by highly engaged leadership teams are 39% more likely to be highly engaged themselves.

Arif says: “That’s why we wanted to go back to that leadership route, and how we can help them be the best they can be for their team. If you can unlock quality leadership development, then other things fall into place much more easily. It’s about considering how you can blend agile leadership into your working style, and using those attitudes and ideas to become a better leader.”

Continuous learning is a huge thing. No matter how high up you are, learning never stops. It’s about developing a collaborative approach within your team – coming back and reflecting on what happened, what can be improved upon, what you can learn. We’re not interested in placing blame. It’s an individual responsibility that comes from the collective.”

“Walking the shop floor is a hugely valuable exercise.”

“We did a podcast not long ago about Anita Roddick, Founder of the Body Shop. She was very clear that she would never use line managers to communicate with her team – she’d always do it herself. Now, I appreciate that’s not always realistic in large organisations, but at scale what it really means is taking responsibility for your own communication with your team. We like to see leaders who are very actively engaged and don’t rely on organisational structures to get their message across.

‘Walking the shop floor’ is a hugely valuable exercise. For example, if you’re in a retail situation, spend a day stacking shelves or taking deliveries – learn what its like for the people in those roles, and it will help inform your leadership style in a more nuanced way.

“Another huge element of agile leadership is focussing on outcomes, and trusting the expertise of your team to solve problems and get the work done. Delegating tasks and giving your team the autonomy to solve problems on their own is hugely important. It’s all about creating an environment where they feel safe to be creative, solve problems and share ideas.

Ultimately, your team should feel listened to and valued, and this makes a huge difference in terms of psychological safety. Agile leadership is about creating your own sense of self-awareness: knowing where your leadership style is limited, and learning how to adapt it to get the best out of your team.”

Humble Associates are experts at developing leaders with agility. Learn more on their website.