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Battle of Leadership Styles: Agile vs Command and Control - Who Reigns Supreme

Australian business leaders are continually facing challenging environments due to disruptive events such as the war in Ukraine, lockdowns, bushfires, and a declining economy. This situation has put leaders to the test in guiding their teams and enterprises through these uncertain times. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership, especially during a crisis, change in business structure and/or process. Different leadership styles can be successful in different ways, depending on the organisation and its goals. In this blog, we will compare two leadership styles: command-and-control and agile.

Command-and-control leaders are goal-oriented, authoritative, focussed on detail and decisive. These are the leaders you want working in your Payroll, Finance, and Administration department. They are well suited to a structured environment with clear tasks and deadlines and prioritise process and governance over responding to operational reality. On the other hand, agile leaders are better suited to ambiguous or fluid situations. They focus on discovery, collaboration, innovation, trends and helping their teams find new ways forward. You want these leaders in your Executive team and your Sales and Marketing departments. They prioritise proactive strategies and reactive operational approaches, ask questions, encourage feedback and collaborative decisions, reward innovation and entrepreneurial action, take calculated risks, and promote a 'fail-fast' work culture.

While each leadership style has a role to play, studies have shown that agile leadership is particularly effective in times of crisis or business disruption. When pressure is applied, such as during a global pandemic, economic fallout or even when an employee resigns, businesses find that performance improves in teams when agile behaviours, such as self-management, are encouraged. Allowing staff to develop their own solutions to problems leads to better outcomes, ownership of the solution by team members, and increased motivation.

Nothing is Perfect

The agile philosophy recognises that nothing is perfect, so perpetual incremental improvement of any implemented process or product is guaranteed. This ongoing improvement aspect is why delivering something that is 80% right is acceptable for most applications in agile – as it will continue to be improved over time.

Ultimately, both leadership roles are critical for business success in their own ways, depending on the industry, team, and environment they work in. However, in today's fast-moving, unpredictable business landscape, where disruptions are becoming increasingly common, supplementing conventional approaches with agile principles can help businesses thrive. By encouraging agile behaviours such as self-management and empowering your team to develop their own solutions, businesses can improve performance and foster a culture of continuous improvement. So now, the questions that only remain are “what type of leader are you?” and “which do you want to be?”


Businesses can email or call 1300 287 213 for free first-step advice on how to improve culture, optimise business processes and become an Agile organisation. Follow us on LinkedIn or sign up here to receive our articles direct to your email inbox.


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