Study on Agile Leadership in a Corporation

Published: 2021/11/30
Number of words: 4321

1. Introduction

In the modern business community, organization leaders are not necessarily the candidates with the most expertise and experience. One of the essential traits leaders should possess is agility or the capability of balancing competing organizational demands. An agile leader nurtures relationships with team members, encourages change and innovation while motivating employees to attain ultimate performance. Thus, the concept of agile leadership entails the ability to balance various challenges and conflicting demands in an organization. Usually, agile leaders foster team collaboration and are effective change agents. They drive reliable results and develop a high performing team (Lepsinger, 2019). Corporations today strive to build the most effective form of leadership to ensure business success. Choosing the ideal candidate for the position is a critical process and entails thorough research regarding the personal traits of the candidate. Agility is one of the crucial traits which corporations in contemporary times are looking for in individuals to drive change. Leaders who possess this trait are able to establish successful business relationships, adapt to various organizational changes, and deliver results. In this paper, a discussion will be made on how agile leadership style influences business operations and why it is significant in today’s business world. Volkswagen corporation will be used in this case to demonstrate how agile leadership style is applied and how it has revolutionized business operations.

1.1 Problem Statement

Corporations nowadays are looking for effective leaders who will take the business on advanced levels. Compared to other leadership traits, agility is a unique characteristic that enables leaders to drive change in the organization. Business leaders must adapt to various corporate changes as this will allow them to focus on integrating changes to business operations. The vitality of the digitalized business community call for distinct management styles that are more involving and effective as compared to the past. However, what happens in agile organizations is different from what happens in other organizations. Agile organizations benefit from key leadership traits which are vital in developing a capable team and ensure balance in business operations. It is therefore essential for corporations to utilize this leadership style as it has revolutionized the business world.

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1.2 Research Questions and Objectives

This study will aim at investigating how agile leadership style has impacted corporations like Volkswagen and how it has aided in the realization of established organizational goals. Therefore, the specific objectives will include studying how the agile leadership style enables corporations to differentiate themselves from other corporations. The study will also assess how agile leadership style impacts corporations and how it is essential in attaining a competitive advantage. Finally, the study will analyze how agile leadership style is significant in the contemporary business community and why it is widely applied by corporations like Volkswagen. In this regard, the research questions will include the following:

What are the essential qualities which agile leaders must possess to thrive in undertaking their roles?

What are the various tactics of developing agile leaders in today’s global business community?

Why is an agile form of leadership gaining popularity in the contemporary business world?

2. Agile Leadership in Action

2.1 Essential Qualities of Agile Leaders

Agile leaders have three essential qualities that make them stand out among other leaders. These traits have significant value to personnel and the entire organization as well. By learning to deliver, connect, and adapt, leaders, grow the flexibility that right leadership agility requires. When interviewing different executives at Volkswagen regarding agility in their organization, they all agreed to such three critical traits of agile leaders (Harraf, Wanasika, Tate, and Talbott, 2015, p.675). Volkswagen is a multinational corporation and requires the best leadership style to attain a competitive edge from their competitors like Ford and BMW. The corporation practices agile leadership style and has been able to achieve their goal more efficiently. The three traits will be discussed in the next three paragraphs citing evidence from Volkswagen.

According to the CEO of Volkswagen, agile leaders should have the ability to be aware of fluctuating dynamics and adjust swiftly to overcome challenges, reevaluate tactical direction, and push for innovation and transformation. The concept of situational awareness is a critical competency in adapting as it enables agile leaders to recognize how internal and external situations impact the effectiveness of the corporation and how individuals involved from different organizational levels are affected (Raghuramapatruni and Kosuri, 2017, pp.16-22). For instance, Volkswagen would aim at familiarizing themselves with current market trends and ensure they make informed decisions concerning pricing, advertising, and promotion. This can be achieved through:

  • Carrying out relative testing and benchmarking against other corporations in the industry
  • Emphasizing research and development to nurture innovation
  • Collecting data to recognize the needs of their customers better

Agile leaders are aware that utilizing the same strategy recurrently without making changes based on the current situation can weaken performance. Being familiar with organizational structures and contextual conditions assists agile leaders in making decisions to diminish trade-offs and build awareness for both long-term and short-term objectives. Leaders learn how to establish a balance between innovation and proficiency, habitually without perfect or comprehensive intelligence. Systems reasoning also allows leaders who possess the agility to comprehend how different elements of the corporation interrelate with others, thus enabling them to project how changes in one item may affect others. This is prevalent in large corporations like Volkswagen, where one action may unintentionally result in different consequences across departments. Agile leaders, therefore, have the ability to adapt effectively to such changes and gather the relevant information to make informed decisions and attain positive results.

In order to thrive in corporations, agile leaders are required to understand various ways of establishing significant connections before they can make an impact. What makes agile leaders stand out among their peers is their ability to stimulate, influence, and nurture a collective environment. Agile leaders exhibit various leadership behaviors that establish the tone for corporate configuration, which contributes to personnel and stakeholder investment. Such leaders lead by example and this is one of the effective ways of developing credibility which enables them to utilize in influencing plans more efficiently. Leaders develop self-awareness which allows them to connect successfully with personnel and corporate stakeholders. Understanding one’s motives and emotions are key at Volkswagen as it will enable them to monitor their personal prejudices and understand with team members continuously (Qureshi and Kashif, 2017, p.52). There is a program at Volkswagen which enables top executives to train themselves in managing their emotions and learn how to appreciate diversity in the organization. This allows such executives to keep any bias in check and appreciate all team members. Leaders can enhance their connection with people through:

  • Developing appreciation programs
  • Improving life/work balance
  • Providing constant growth opportunities to absorb talent

Even though many leaders certainly have high emotional intelligence, developing programs that integrate plans to enhance skills in order to attain obligation to others, build partnerships across corporate borders, and manage conflicts can be useful to agile leaders. For agile leaders, the ability to demonstrate personal integrity is critically significant. This can be achieved by honoring promises, acting with consistency, and being accountable for one’s decisions and actions. In addition, agile leaders will take steady steps towards developing support and trust among team members. If leaders lack personal integrity, it may become challenging for them to influence their team members and build productive connections. In a corporation like Volkswagen, it is fundamental for agile leaders to build relationships with different stakeholders like their clients to attain their sales goals.

Although corporate leaders must connect with others and adapt rapidly to organizational changes, they must also deliver positive results. Effective leaders develop successful methodologies of driving performance and generating reliable and steady results by capitalizing on appropriate accelerators and nurturing high performing teams focused on value creation for shareholders and customers. in several ways, the capability to deliver results relies on other key attributes of agile leaders, such as the ability to connect and adapt. Also, agile leaders succeed at prioritizing. They recognize the big picture plans and comprehend how to develop gradual measures to attain them. Whereas they even succeed in dealing with daily challenges, they always focus on the corporation’s all-encompassing mission (Rigby, Sutherland, and Takeuchi, 2016, pp.40-50). In an interview with the human resources director at Volkswagen, he mentioned some of the critical attributes which enable them to deliver favorable results and they include patience, time management, persistence, and careful planning. He stated that the company invests in ensuring efficiency across all departments to cut costs. The leaders do not give up on their projects and focus on bringing in innovation to ensure their products are competitive. At Volkswagen, leaders deliver positive results through:

  • Standardizing procedures and policies
  • Developing goal-setting programs
  • Implementing cost minimization programs

The leaders constantly amend their efforts to keep the entire organization productive, creative, dynamic, engaged, and efficient.

2.2 Principles of Agile Leadership

According to business analysts, agile culture aids in attaining a competitive advantage. In order to foster the culture, it needs an innovative leader and organizational behaviors. For Volkswagen to be long-lasting and completely efficient, agile transformation is required to stretch to every corner and cranny of the company, and leadership plays a vital role. Five critical principles guide agile leaders.

Successful agile leaders support the Agile Manifesto: when corporations are building agile teams, they should be familiar with the Agile Manifesto and understand various ways of effectively implementing it (Kashyap, 2017). Volkswagen needs to develop examples of adapting to reality as a result of changing strategies. The agile manifesto may not always align with some priorities and information, but leaders should adapt to current situations on the ground.

Agile leaders nurture continuous learning: in order to attain organizational goals faster and efficiently, constant learning is crucial. Agile teams typically share different lessons they have learned in review meetings. Agile leaders practice constant learning from new mistakes and insights throughout this process.

Agile leaders remove barriers for the team: leaders are aware than the expected outcomes are attained when their team has supreme probable freedom of action, and when realizing the predominant objective is prioritized over the individual feelings of some. Agile leaders encourage and empower their personnel to work independently and avoid negative criticism, which prevents them from reaching set goals.

Agile leaders emphasis on actual success: in the modern business world, all types of organizations are experiencing transformational processes with the motive of becoming self-centered. The assertions of transformational grumblers have no parameters; what has been attained should be conserved; changes have borders, and companies should not be threatened (Kashyap, 2017). Leaders do not rely on these arguments but focus on what matters and measuring success based on the end user’s feedback and outcome appraisal.

Agile leaders are leaders of acts: it is believed, “Be the change you want to see,” and agile leaders consider taking actions. Leaders must maintain a balance between their actions and the end goals. Agile implies change, and current leaders should not focus on learning and preaching the concept but developing an environment that facilitates people to adapt to change.

3. Impact of Agile Leadership in Corporations

3.1 Benefits of Agile Leadership Style

For many corporations, pursuing agile leadership has become a sensible decision to embrace change. Corporations are failing today due to poor communication, insufficient systems, and weak team coordination. Competitors are also forcing corporations to adapt to new business trends. Adopting agile leadership is thus crucial in conducting business more effectively and achieving corporate goals efficiently.

Triggers of agility in corporations

In an interview with the managing director at Volkswagen, the corporation has benefited from agile leadership. Over the decades, the leadership of Volkswagen has been performing well, but the company has been involved in controversies of emission which affects its market and financial performance. This could be related to leadership failure and poor application of agile leadership. Upon the leadership review, the company has been able to thrive and has witnessed increased visibility. Through visibility, leaders are able to make better decisions. Visibility into what individuals are doing, timing, and methodologies improve transparency as well as accountability (Neubauer, Tarling, and Wade, 2017, pp.1-15). Enhanced visibility at Volkswagen has assisted employees in understanding how their duties relate to the big-picture and understanding in what ways their roles are crucial for morale. In order to practically utilize agility, the company used a management tool known as Kanban which is used to visualize the workflows and methods through with work gets done.

There has been increased adaptability at Volkswagen. As the company is growing, business operations have become sophisticated, thereby slowing things down. With competition changing business rules in the sector, it is vital for corporations to keep up. Many times, the company attempts to deal with disruptions by focusing on speed; however, without proper strategy and effectiveness, speed may not be a sustainable solution. Agile promotes adaptability by breaking down reliance and complexity in the way the corporation does things. Volkswagen also benefited from increased business value. Failure to focus on creating customer value can lead to the organization losing sight of factors that drive business decisions. Agile empowers individuals across all departments and ensures tasks are performed in ways that maximize client value (Codreanu, 2016, p.33-34). According to a customer service respondent, every employee collectively decides which tasks will build the most value. Finally, through agile leadership, there are minimal business risks. When the company is operating inefficiently and poorly, it is hard for intelligent and talented individuals to thrive. Thus, employee turnover increases. It is the duty of the company to build an environment where intelligent individuals feel safe to relate, create, and communicate freely. Moreover, other risks such as market and financial risks can be controlled effectively through agile leadership.

3.2 Tactics for Building Agile Leaders in Corporations

Global economy demands have engaged implausible pressure on corporations across different sectors. In order to effectively deal with the challenges of the 21st century, corporations must invest in talent growth tactics to develop agile leaders who possess adaptability and flexibility to manage diversity in an organization and ensure stability in the increasing number of corporate demands. Creating effective agile leaders is a critical investment in ensuring a flawless path to viable success (Parker, Holesgrove, and Pathak, 2015). Corporations should take advantage of a robust review process in the identification of high potential candidates who can showcase agility, and growth programs should emphasize on assisting them in building skills to be successful.

Agile leaders can be developed by promoting transactional and transformational leadership. They require to take a macro-level perception of the corporation to provide the transformational visions that deliver consistent results, enable future success, and provide reliable results. With this perception, agile leaders can then define the goals and values of their organization and set a tone and program which can function as a foundation for commitment and unity whereas allowing for sufficient flexibility to adapt to changing situations. As corporations become more diverse and expand, agile leaders should also develop innovative ways to motivate and inspire individuals as a group. This is what the managing director of Volkswagen strives to achieve and people become more productive while working as a team. In an interview with the MD, Volkswagen focuses on developing a shared vision and this is what the corporation stands for. This perception has proved to be an effective means of building a shared community. Leaders do not only focus on the transformational aspect but also the transactional element of leadership. According to the managing director, “having a big picture notion of where the corporation is headed will not do any person much good if short-term operating objectives cannot be achieved. As a result, agile leaders need to learn how to provide motivational leadership and operating effectiveness, which aids in delivering on a steady basis.” From a development point of view, this implies that high potential leaders must develop skills for building a long-term plan and required capabilities for daily management (Hall and Rowland, 2016). For instance, individuals who have been sourced from a department for leadership positions should possess an understanding of other areas in the company in order to recognize the big picture better.

Building agile leaders can also be done by encouraging critical thinking. The process of critical thinking involves the assessment of truthfulness and value of opinions and intelligence in an efficient, systematic, and determined manner. Leaders who possess critical thinking skills have the tendency to make informed decisions, enabling them to forecast the impacts of their choices, making more prosperous recruitments and promotions, and managing crises effectively. Usually, agile leaders have the attributes required to turn into superior critical thinkers. Interview with the MD pointed out that analytical, inquisitive, and reflective attributes make leaders open to reviewing innovative ideas empirically and applying reason to reach their conclusion. Corporations intending to build agile leaders must focus on critical thinking skills to take advantage of these tendencies (Raghuramapatruni and Kosuri, 2017, pp.16-22). Growth programs that educate potential leaders on how to recognize and reduce partiality differentiate facts from opinions and comprehend in what way structures within corporation work is exceedingly significant in creating agility and knowing how to adjust in means that push for innovation and transformation.

For aspiring leaders, providing high-quality feedback is a vital stage for the development process. Without ongoing review, it may become challenging to identify areas they are doing well and areas that require improvements. Agile leaders do well on quality information, and consequently, feedback is an essential element. In order to maximize its usefulness, feedback must be timely, precise, and balanced. Feedback should emphasize strategic ideas that are new to the minds of employees and provide precise recommendations for advancement. In Volkswagen, the management usually is keen on feedback from different stakeholders to plan more effectively. Employees are free to share ideas that are useful in ensuring business success. The managing director pointed out that feedback being a two-way dialogue offers every individual an opportunity to share their ideas and ask relevant questions. In most corporations, feedback is not always positive and they take criticisms as an opportunity to solve problems which in turn aids in evading negativity which can lead to individuals becoming self-justifying (Raghuramapatruni and Kosuri, 2017, pp.16-22). Moreover, feedback should encompass some optimistic reinforcement and should be balanced as well, stressing accomplishments that allow leaders to recognize they are on the ideal path.

Supporting risk-taking is significant for agile leaders to be comfortable when taking chances. A company like Volkswagen has developed a leadership style that promotes risk-taking whereas stimulating accountability. Volkswagen has established a system that manages failures and accounts for risks in the aim of encouraging agile leadership. Their perception of failure as a pathway for future success builds an organizational setting that enables agile leaders to learn from hunting innovative notions without totally upsetting the status quo. Agile leaders who desire to adapt to varying circumstances and deliver useful results will be required to take some risks. They utilize their ability to connect to attain a viewpoint of how their team members will react to being pulled out of their comfort zones in the course of change initiatives or other uncommon circumstances. However, to develop stronger teams, corporations are required to allow aspiring leaders to take some risks and grow used to delivering results under tough circumstances (Codreanu, 2016, p.31-32). In order to build personal resilience, Volkswagen exposes their leaders to failure and risk. In the unpredictable contemporary economy, the company requires leaders who are not afraid of suffering impediments and possess the capacity to bounce back swiftly from frustrations. Leaders are pushed to challenge what is possible continuously, and growth programs assist them in developing confidence useful in handling demanding conditions that may seem too irresistible to handle. Volkswagen leaders have established a sense of resilience and integrated it into their teams; in addition, they have learned how to bounce back from disappointments rapidly and battle through exasperating situations.

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3.3 The Future of Agile Leadership

Agile leaders constantly work to deliver results and overcome challenges from change circumstances to managing conflicts. Even though they follow an established plan, they understand all situations are different, and in some cases, they might have to delegate tasks and reallocate resources to people they trust. Having adaptable and flexible leaders is becoming a requirement for corporate success as they struggle to deal with social and technological changes in markets across the globe. Whether they are building consensus, impacting work culture or motivating teams to keep them occupied, agile leaders convey optimistic results for their corporations. Thus, such corporations need to invest in appraisal and growth programs intended to build leadership agility (Lepsinger, 2019). Volkswagen can focus on turning high potential workers into agile leaders. With their ability to deliver, connect, and adapt, agile leaders, possess the required tools to thrive and manage challenges. Developing such leaders today can turn out to be a competitive advantage tomorrow.

4. Conclusion

4.1 Outlook

Rapid changes across the globe and changing technology have developed a desire to engage in the individual interrelated aspect that will expedite the attainment of corporate goals. Corporations need the skills of an agile leader in order to survive in the ever-evolving business world. A corporation like Volkswagen recognized the importance of agile leadership and thus adopted it in its operations to spearhead the company to growth opportunities. As discussed in this study, agile leaders possess three critical attributes connect, adapt, and deliver, which enable them to succeed in their roles. Nowadays, building relationships with individuals is essential in ensuring business success, especially when the corporation desires to maintain and attract more clients. Also, it is imperative for leaders to be able to adapt to changes that occur in the course of business operations. Aspiring leaders also need to deliver results as different stakeholders assess the success of an organization by results. Volkswagen has already developed programs that aim at training aspiring leaders agility. Today’s corporations have realized the importance of the agile form of leadership and thus, the style has been widely applied. This is because the global market is becoming more complex, ambiguous, uncertain and volatile. Therefore, such organizations require a leader who can respond rapidly and manage uncertainties. Agile gives teams mandate and freedom to decide on their own and they are able to respond to changing market demands and technological opportunities quickly. Agile form of leadership fits well in modern days’ business culture of giving autonomy to employees to perform their duties and not tell individuals what to do. As an alternative, agility develops clarity on goals and desired outcomes and allows employees at Volkswagen to discover effective ways of achieving corporate goals.

5. References

Codreanu, A., 2016. A VUCA action framework for a VUCA environment. Leadership challenges and solutions. Journal of Defense Resources Management (JoDRM)7(2), pp.31-38.

Hall, R.D. and Rowland, C.A., 2016. Leadership development for managers in turbulent times. Journal of Management Development.

Harraf, A., Wanasika, I., Tate, K. and Talbott, K., 2015. Organizational agility. Journal of Applied Business Research (JABR)31(2), pp.675-686.

Neubauer, R., Tarling, A. and Wade, M., 2017. Redefining leadership for a digital age. Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation, pp.1-15.

Parker, D.W., Holesgrove, M. and Pathak, R., 2015. Improving productivity with self-organized teams and agile leadership. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management.

Qureshi, M.R.J. and Kashif, M., 2017. Adaptive framework to manage multiple teams using agile methodologies. International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science9(1), p.52.

Raghuramapatruni, R. and Kosuri, S., 2017. The straits of success in a VUCA world. IOSR Journal of Business and Management19, pp.16-22.

Rigby, D.K., Sutherland, J. and Takeuchi, H., 2016. Embracing agile. Harvard Business Review94(5), pp.40-50.

List of Internet Sources

Kashyap, V. (2017). 6 Principles of Agile Leadership. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Feb. 2020].

Lepsinger, R. (2019). Agile Leadership: A Comprehensive Guide. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Feb. 2020].


Interview Script

Research Questions

What are the essential qualities which agile leaders must possess to thrive in undertaking their roles?

What are the various tactics of developing agile leaders in today’s global business community?

Why is an agile form of leadership gaining popularity in the contemporary business world?

Respondents: Top level executives at Volkswagen.

  1. What position do you hold in your organization?
  2. Are you familiar with the concept of agile leadership? If so, briefly elaborate the concept.
  3. Describe shortly how you perceive change?
  4. How would you describe your corporate leadership style?
  5. What are the different factors you consider when implementing changes at your corporation?
  6. How frequently do you encounter change initiatives?
  7. What is the role of organizational politics and culture in nurturing organizational change?
  8. In what ways do you have the capability to make decisions to enhance strategic decisions in your corporation or across departments?
  9. To what extend has agile leadership style been utilized in your organization?
  10. How does agile leadership impact your organization specifically employees and managers?

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