Agile in 2018: Leadership

Coaching, self-organization, leadership, and business agility are the areas where I expect breakthrough innovations to take place in 2018. In this third article in the series “Agile in 2018” I explore the state of practice in agile leadership and discuss what agile will bring us in 2018.

The InfoQ Culture and Methods editorial team, of which I’m a member, has published their trends report – January 2018. I’m quoting from this yearly agile culture and methods lookout and added my personal view below.


Leadership at every level – with self-organization anyone can and will lead at times. At the team level Tech leads and Scrum masters must take the lead in helping teams become truly self-organized.

Modern leadership approaches belong to either innovator or early adopter areas of the adoption curve. Very few organizations are actually applying them, those who do are often getting benefits. Examples of organizations which use modern leadership approaches like Holacracy and Sociocracy are Voys and Buurtzorg.

These approaches are not aimed solely at managers and formal leaders, basically, with self-organization, anyone can and will lead at times. At the team level, I expect Tech leads and Scrum masters to take the lead when it comes to making teams truly self-organized.

There’s more than servant leadership; there are many effective leadership styles for Scrum masters. I’m hoping that in 2018 more organizations will experiment with them and for instance try out Sociocracy 3.0, Holacracy, and Intent-based Leadership; these approaches can help you to increase your agility.


Deliberate culture design – more and more organizations have become aware that culture is a key competitive advantage, an attractor of the best talent and customer loyalty.

Culture change remains a challenge for many organizations when they want to adopt modern leadership approaches. The good news is that more and more organizations become aware that culture is a key issue for increasing their agility. I expect that the awareness of the importance of culture will increase in 2018, which is a first step towards improving leadership.

Trust, transparency, and autonomy are essential to establish a culture that flourishes effective leadership. Managers have to be an example to make it work, the same is true for agile coaches when they support an agile transformation.

Trying to change their culture, many organizations often default to traditional change approaches. Such an approach doesn’t fit with autonomy and self-organization. Hopefully, in 2018 more organization will revert from this and experiment with modern leadership approaches in culture change.

Agile in 2018

Yogi Berra stated that “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future”. Coaching, self-organization, leadership, and business agility are the areas where I will focus on in 2018 as this is where I expect breakthrough innovations for agile to take place.

What are your expectations for agile leadership in 2018?

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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