Unlocking digital transformation: agile leaders as key drivers of success


In today’s ever-changing world, the success of digital transformations largely depends on leaders leading the change. It’s easy to slip and go back to the traditional ways of working if transformation is not supported and led by the right people. Leaders must step forward and use their growth mindset to support the transformation process and people which play the main role. They must be able to create value and foster innovation to be competitive enough in a highly demanding market.

This article explores which areas they need to change, how they can support the whole process with their mindset shift creating the effective change and how agile coaches can help implement the change.

Why agile leaders are critical to successful transformations

Most agile transformations are driven by senior leaders. Although people are the ones who form the teams and deliver the products, without the right approach from agile leaders, transformations are deemed to fail, because people will unconsciously follow the work and behavior models provided from above. 

Agile leaders need to transform not only the whole organization, they must primarily transform themselves and then all the people to work in the new, agile way.

Which new skills do they need to learn, which challenges do they face on their transformation journey and what do they need to change as a part of the agile transformation?

Transforming leadership style

Mindset shift

If they want to lead successful transformations, agile leaders need to make a shift from reactive to creative mindset. Creative mindset requires leaders to be adaptable, committed to ongoing  learning, to create new opportunities, but also to be able to embrace risks and fail if needed. They need to explore what they need to change to move forward and which new skills they need to develop to successfully manage the changing world and markets.


To foster collaboration of autonomous teams, agile leaders need to develop certain types of communication styles which will not be demanding and directive, but in a form of partnerships with people which are based on trust, autonomy and accountability. They must create a safe environment where people will not be afraid to take risks, experiment, try new solutions and be allowed to fail.  


Vulnerability is the key competency in agile leaders. Being able to admit they don’t know or understand something and to ask for additional explanations creates a safe space for people to do exactly the same. By being open and honest they encourage vulnerability on others which leads to open communication and increased effectiveness in both the leaders and the teams.

Coaching skills

Agile leaders need to be coaches. Besides their primary roles and functions they need to develop additional skills which will be as strong as their primary ones. Coaching mindset is very important and goes hand to hand with the creative mindset. It unlocks people’s potential, allows leaders to really listen to people not trying to change them or tell them what to do. Having the coaching mindset they accept that people are capable of delivering greater values, they only need safe space to go through the change.

Transforming way of working

Creating agile teams

In order to succeed with agile transformations, leaders need to create a powerful ecosystem with a lean structure of small, self managing teams who will work in collaboration mode. Those teams should deliver greater value in rapid cycles, being able to accept change and work in the customer’s best interest. In their transformation, team members should move from the I shape of being responsible for only one thing to the T shape, where they can support another role and finally to the PI shape, to be able to do their tasks, but also to be very skilled in other domains, to help the team go forward and follow the transformation in the way that is needed.

Customer centricity

Agile team members should also have the mindset shift in a way to put customers in the center and think about creating something that is valuable to them recognizing their needs even before they know they exist. They should fundamentally understand their customers, listen to their feedback, prioritize their needs without just listening to what they ask. They should keep their customers happy!


Each agile team can be perceived as a separate, very small business unit whose main task is to create business value. Those business units should seek the new ways of creating what customers need, to foster innovation and ask for new opportunities. They shouldn’t be afraid to take the unknown way or fail from time to time trying new approaches. They should experiment and address issues frequently in order to be efficient and minimize the risks. 

Transforming organization

Transforming people

Organizations become agile when mindset starts changing and people become agile. It is not about one big thing that needs to be changed, but lot’s of small changes contribute to organizational agility. One of them is changing the mindset of people and their way of working. Agile coaching can help people discover new ways of thinking and approaching problems that need to be fixed. Constant learning and self reflecting is one part of having a growth mindset which is a key driver of agile transformations.


It is very important to clearly communicate the benefits of transformational change. Most people don’t like changes and are afraid that things will become unfavorable for them. They might feel they will lose control or their impact will decrease in their area of expertise. Things will change for the whole organization, so communicating that it happens on all levels, not just the team or single person level is important. Everyone in the organization participates in the transformation from their own angle, understanding everyone’s personal view and current situation will contribute to the overall success.

Strategy changes

Old leadership styles are no longer good enough to support digital transformation on its success. Agile leaders need to change their strategy models and operate according to agile principles and values. They need to learn how to create a shared purpose and vision for all people providing them with actionable strategic guidance. Using flexible resource allocation increases people engagement, while greater transparency and leaner governancy helps them be more effective in creating value across organizations.  

Shaping new culture

One of the most important things leaders need to do as a part of digital transformation is to shape the new culture which will support partnership, collaboration, feedback loops and transparency. Agile leaders need to actively work to improve things by systematically addressing which is not good enough and doesn’t support the transformation and organizational change.

How agile coaches and scrum masters can help

Usually agile transformations are supported by agile coaches (and scrum masters) who have been through the process and know how to deal with the transformational challenges. Since digital transformation includes leaders, teams and organizational changes, they should work with all of them, whoever is part of the transformation. They are there to understand the reasons behind the change and to help leaders make the mindset and culture switch. It is not something that happens easily, it takes a lot of time, but with the right approach it will benefit the leaders and the whole organization. Working with scrum masters and product owners and acting as team coaches, they can give people more support, understanding and optimism when it comes to dealing with the change and new situation. Changing the way of work is easier than changing the mindset, but it still takes time and buy-in from everyone involved. Asking the right questions and seeing what is behind each person will help them stay on the track and not go back to the traditional way of working as soon as they encounter the first obstacle. 


To be able to go through the major change of digital transformation, leaders need to understand it first and then to start their personal and organizational change. They need to go in front of the change, investing their time in agile learning and allowing themselves to transform internally by changing their mindset and creating new relationships with people with new communication styles.

About Irena Cvetic 1 Article
Irena Cvetic is an experienced business analyst with a strong agile and coaching mindset. Her love towards business analysis doesn’t stop her from exploring the world of agile and coaching. She is passionate about solving the business problems and driving the changes which help the clients and organizations achieve their goals. She uses her inner drive to make things more efficient and improve anything worth improving. Irena is Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Professional - Scrum Master and Agile Coaching Skills - Certified Facilitator. She has received a Practitioner Diploma of Executive Coaching issued by Academy of Executive Coaching.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.