“Admirably up-to-the minute.” People Management reviews The Agile Leader by Cirrus CEO Dr Simon Hayward.
“Some of the projects where I’ve felt out of control have been some of our most successful.” It’s an unusual admission for a leader to make – but for leadership development expert Hayward, recognising you can’t do it all is what makes today’s successful CEOs different from their predecessors. And while he may not be the fist thinker to experience such an epiphany, he truly believes there is no going back to the old ways.
In The Agile Leader, he shows us how leadership has to change – and why. That means a whistle stop tour of disruption: the publisher becoming a digital-first business; the fast-growing vet group that needs to scale in double-quick time; the catalogue retailer delving into e-commerce. The lean, young workforces that build such companies reject command-and-control and embrace empowerment.
So far, so predictable. Hayward runs through a string of buzz phrases – authenticity, development, collaborative achievement – and introduces techniques such as scrums and iterative planning. But things get more interesting when he describes the myriad barriers to making agile a reality. Through case studies, he demonstrates that failing to truly free your creators (for example, by tying them to financial planning processes) or blithely insisting innovation can only happen inside your four walls means your attempts to be agile will ultimately remain futile. He asks instead that leaders prioritise ‘ruthlessly’, built learning environments and ‘light fires’ to solve creative problems.
As a synthesis of leadership thinking, this is admirably up-to-the minute and doesn’t rely on the work of gurus from the pre-digital age. Hayward is trying to say something genuinely new and relevant. You’ll wish there was more of it, and you’ll want some of the science behind the ideas. But if you’re facing an ‘Uber moment’ in your own industry, this is a decent place to start.
© People Management 2018