Agile leadership vs. micromanagement
Agile leadership vs. micromanagement

Agile leadership vs. micromanagement

How can the New Work idea be established?

Working in the home office is part of the new normality: Some people find it easier to work in a more self-organized way, others have to get used to it for longer. The calls for dynamically bustling companies are getting louder and it no longer seems so far-fetched to save long journeys – and to be able to work self-determined and at your own pace. In this context, of course, it is also important to be able to work within teams and with the managers in charge.   The agile manifest has always demanded the independent, self-organized working method of a team. But even in times of DevOps constructs and gradual digitalization, it can become increasingly important to dispense with micromanagement and create a healthy level of leadership and trust in the long term.

Meaning and differences

We would like to show what agility means in contrast to micromanagement and what exactly the differences are: Agility is the ability of a company to continuously adapt to its complex, turbulent and uncertain environment (internal and external). To do so, it has to be innovative and willing to change itself, constantly learning as an organization and making this knowledge available to all relevant people.   In comparison, micromanagement is described as a management style that has an exaggerated focus on detail and often involves skipping hierarchy levels. In addition, micromanagers in particular will pay close attention to distributing tasks, asking a lot of questions and monitoring individual employees instead of granting them extensive autonomy of action. The focus of a micromanager is therefore on achieving the perfect result and not on the rocky road that the employees had to walk to achieve this result/goal.

Working methods of micromanagers and agile coaches

Whereas in micromanagement one person pays attention to how and what has to be done and evaluates the results subjectively, in an agile environment several persons/roles act in a short-cycle and iterative manner with constant mutual reflection. The Agile Coach, one of the leadership roles in the agile context, will therefore also act as moderator, facilitator, sometimes also mediator and mentor. He makes sure that the framework conditions are right, that obstacles and needs of the teams are addressed, creates feedback loops, gets to know the individual strengths and weaknesses of his team members, supports them in their growth and increases the maturity level of the entire organization. So on the whole, it is a question of how to deal with the definition of leadership and the resulting supremacy.

Agile leadership


Inspire employees to make decisions

Command employees to achieve results

Leading employees to good moves

Control employees to execute steps

Develop the team through learning and teaching

Measure/count team progress or measure individual success

Using the team to influence the workplace

Use subordinates to execute direct plans/tasks



Forcing team decisions

Taking decisions

Shaping and integrating vision

Define goals

Step-by-step establishment of the "New Work" idea

Although a transformation towards agility cannot happen overnight, there are some approaches to gradually establish the New Work idea associated with agility:  

  1. Develop agile target image
  2. Establishing a customer-oriented organizational structure
  3. Create an iterative process landscape
  4. Promote employee-centered leadership understanding and an agile mindset in leadership
  5. Designing suitable agile personnel and management instruments
  6. Driving forward an agile corporate culture

Management as a central success factor

Today, many employees want to achieve a meaningful impact, which is increasingly achieved through team-based knowledge work. Therefore, knowledge must be shared and spread within the team. And this should generally be done across all hierarchical levels. This perspective on leadership is a key success factor for working in an agile environment.   Managers in traditional systems usually take on responsibility on a professional level. They make decisions, define processes and ensure efficient work. They see it as their goal to increase the amount of work produced. Agile coaches, on the other hand, assume responsibility at the operational level and, by asking questions and listening, achieve their goal of supporting employees on their way. Because they themselves want to increase the amount of work they produce.

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Michael Henninger, Project Management and Agile
Michael Henninger
Project Management and Agile