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How Post-Heroic Leadership Strengthens Culture and Performance


Photo superhero businessman superhero. silhouette of a businessman
Photo superhero businessman superhero. silhouette of a businessman

Introduction

A recent report reveals that post-heroic leadership is key to building strong, agile cultures that drive organisational resilience and superior commercial performance.


The 2023 State of Agile Culture Report by JCURV, Truthsayers, and the Agile Business Consortium surveyed over 1,000 professionals across industries and levels. It examined the impact of different leadership styles on agile culture, business agility, and resilience.


The findings highlight a significant gap between leadership and employee perspectives on agility. While 97% of C-suite members believe they role model agile behaviours, just 2% of delivery team members agree.


Only 29% of employees think leaders can adapt to changing market conditions. This perception gap risks inhibiting an organisation's agility and resilience.


What is Post-Heroic Leadership?

The report contrasts two leadership archetypes:


  • Heroic leaders demonstrate a command-and-control style. They assign tasks and manage individuals, rarely empowering teams.

  • Post-heroic leaders foster environments where team members feel empowered and engaged. They retain accountability while enabling teams to reach their potential.


Post-heroic leaders embody eight key attributes:


  • Empowering others

  • Encouraging experimentation

  • Providing clarity of intent

  • Focusing on value

  • Driving collaboration

  • Fostering a feedback culture

  • Promoting agile ways of working

  • Applying different perspectives


Only 10% of leaders currently demonstrate post-heroic qualities, but the report found a 0.82 correlation between these leaders and strong, agile cultures.


The Business Case for Post-Heroic Leadership

The research revealed that strong, agile cultures increase commercial performance by 277%. Post-heroic leaders are also closely associated with organisations that can respond quickly and effectively to market changes (0.86 correlation).


Additional findings highlight the benefits of post-heroic leadership:


  • It strengthens feedback culture. Just 38% of employees believe leaders regularly exchange meaningful feedback, down 34% since 2022. Post-heroic leaders can reverse this trend by role-modeling feedback behaviours.

  • It enables organisational agility. Perceived leadership agility has stalled at 47% compared to 56% pre-pandemic. Post-heroic leaders embody the agile qualities needed to adapt and thrive amid volatility.

  • It promotes resilience. Post-heroic leaders correlate with resilient organisations (0.75) that encourage experimentation and support employees through ambiguity.


3 Key Actions for Leaders

The top three levers that align with improved commercial performance are:


  • Prioritising agile coaching and training. This ensures that employees and leaders feel capable in agile environments.

  • Providing clarity of intent. Clear strategic focus and priorities enable teams to deliver maximum value.

  • Creating a psychologically safe environment. Post-heroic leaders build trust and engagement through empowerment, feedback, and encouraging experimentation.


While adopting a post-heroic style takes time, leaders can focus on progressing specific behaviours. Steps include defining a target performance outcome, identifying improvement areas, and running small experiments to shift leadership approaches incrementally.


Conclusion

The 2023 State of Agile Culture Report highlights the significant impact of post-heroic leadership in enhancing agile culture, resilience, and business performance. Embracing these capabilities is crucial, catalysing organisational agility and tapping into latent potential. More than just a management style adjustment, this shift empowers teams, fostering innovation, collaboration, and resilience. Adopting this approach cultivates a proactive, adaptable organisation adept at navigating the complexities of a modern business world.


About the Author

Giles Lindsay is a technology executive, business agility coach, and CEO of Agile Delta Consulting Limited. Giles has a track record in driving digital transformation and technological leadership. He has adeptly scaled high-performing delivery teams across various industries, from nimble startups to leading enterprises. His roles, from CTO or CIO to visionary change agent, have always centred on defining overarching technology strategies and aligning them with organisational objectives.


Giles is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI), the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (FBCS), and The Institution of Analysts & Programmers (FIAP). His leadership across the UK and global technology companies has consistently fostered innovation, growth, and adept stakeholder management. With a unique ability to demystify intricate technical concepts, he’s enabled better ways of working across organisations.


Giles’ commitment extends to the literary realm with his forthcoming book: “Clearly Agile: A Leadership Guide to Business Agility”. This comprehensive guide focuses on embracing Agile principles to effect transformative change in organisations. An ardent advocate for continuous improvement and innovation, Giles is unwaveringly dedicated to creating a business world that prioritises value, inclusivity, and societal advancement.


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