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Some leaders of companies will announce to their direct reports, “We’re going agile!”

…but that’s as far as they get with their own personal transformation away from autocratic, central decision-making practices and into a posture of curiosity and learning where more questions are asked than directives given.

In my opinion, this partial thought and enigmatic move towards change, void of a personal transformation as a leader, can hurt the organization more than if it just stayed entrenched in their old ways of doing things. We all know that organizations are filled with institutionalized ladder climbers, lacking the true leadership skills to evoke changes in mindset and culture, make tough decisions, and patiently ride out the turbulent waters of change until it’s smoother sailing. 

True organizational leaders must step on and over their title and walk briskly towards heart and soul change with an informed mind and an inflamed heart. All opportunities come with an expiration date, and the role of a leader in a closing window of opportunity is to create a sense of urgency – not through fear and suppression – but through inspiration and motivation, leading by example with curiosity, questions, and a desire to perpetually learn and grow.

Simon Sinek once said that “Great leaders give everyone something to believe in, not something to do.” It’s time for our company leaders to look their employees in the eye with fierce solidarity and empathy, not calling them out, but, rather, calling them ‘up’ to higher heights, a better standard where individuals no longer seek to get anything, but instead, give everything for the sake of the bigger cause. Everyone longs to be part of something great, something bigger than themselves. 

It’s up to our company leaders to unleash that true freedom to their people. And true freedom is not getting to do what you want to do; true freedom is being set free to do what you were made to do. Michael Hamman, author and trainer of leaders in the agile transformation space, once said, “’Transformation’ has to do with a shift in the quality of capability within the human system, whether it is in an individual or an entire organization.”

I guess what I’m challenging leaders to do is activate and fan the flame of that shift. Most of the great leaders of business can create and influence cultural shifts, but some believe that it can’t be taught. I believe that it’s innately inside all of us, and we hold the choice to either keep it hidden or learn to use it. If we can just have the courage and the will to bring it out, fumble with it, and learn to hone and channel it in an inspiring and positive way, the outcomes will be remarkable.

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