Are you a Fragile Leader?

“You can measure the character of a man by the choices he makes under pressure” Winston Churchill

My definition of a “fragile leader” is one who compromises or abandons agile principles in the face of adversity or challenge.

Hopefully, we all strive to do the right thing. I feel confident in saying that I do not think there is a person who gets up in the morning and with intention thinks about how he can make his own life and the world around him worse in some manner. Now, that being said; does it mean the decisions we make are not often self-centered or driven by something to alleviate personal pain, etc? Sure, sometimes they are and something we should be aware to ensure we are being genuine in our decisions.  It can become especially critical to have this awareness and sense of true purpose when the heat gets turned up!

I am writing this post today as I often ask myself “Am I being true true to the base agile values that I hold for myself in what I do”? Basically, am I staying true to my thoughts and principles even in the face of adversity or fear of the unknown.

As a brief overview of these values, I find 5 questions that are a barometer for me personally in what I do:

  1. Am I operating under the values and principles set out in the agile manifesto or making compromises, projecting my own biases out of fear or lack of trust?
  2. Am I cultivating an environment where people are key and hiring people I trust to do the work and then trusting them to do so being upheld?
  3. Am I listening to understand or simply to reply? Am I allowing myself to be open to new ideas or challenges to my way of thought?
  4. Am I “being present” to my organization and considering ways to find solutions?
  5. Am I “walking the walk” or just “talking the talk”? Am I being genuine in my actions?

These sound pretty straight-forward and easy to remind yourself of daily but the fact is that doing this daily reminds me that I have to keep these in mind everyday and demonstrate them in my actions. So does that make me awesome? Not one bit. I have to constantly keep myself in check to ensure I am not falling into anti-patterns of leadership and becoming fragile in my approach.

One of the leaders I work with here and have a tremendous amount of respect for comes from a enterprise operations background. While my interaction with him has in no way allowed me to recognize a certain type of switch or network traffic pattern he has passed along several things I seek to incorporate into my leadership style .to become less fragile  as a leader myself.

First, he is fearless when it comes to having those difficult conversations at any level. He states the facts, listens with empathy at replies, is willing to point out the differences to excuses and impediments and actually genuinely tries to understand the obstacles and find a solution together. For this reason, people feel drawn to speak with him with concerns. Even being in an upper executive position, he makes time to speak with people, stay engaged and cultivate connections with people all across the floor.

The other thing that I learned which is less obvious as a leadership skill is a concept of sustainability of networks. In operations, “uptime” is king.  Keeping a system running consistently for an organization and being aware of issues as they unfold is critical to operational success. The network should be seamless. It should cutover and make upgrades when needed and the end stakeholder should have minimum disruption. This takes planning, monitoring and care and feeding to create sustainability.

I mention this as I think that this is another way leadership can move from agility to fragility. Getting complacent that you have it all figured out and not being aware of what is truly happening (or working) can lead to fragility.

Does this mean you need to command and control your environment? Absolutely not! It actually means the opposite. It means you have to remain present, trustful, watchful and see when you need to reinforce, change or grow. Just like a network, you do not want to scramble to put out a fire or only act when pain has gotten so bad that you are just “trying to make something work”.

I strive each day to ensure I can be effective in my actions and true to my principles in an effort not to become a fragile and ineffective. It’s something that requires my ongoing attention and cultivation.

So are you being an agile leader or a  fragile leader? What compromises have you made that have caused you to compromise your overall principles? Have you stayed true to these ideals in the face of adversity?

“You drown not by falling into a river, but staying submerged in it.” – Paulo Coelho