Agility is a mindset and is primarily based on character. But what does such a character look like and how can I make something like this tangible? I’ve been wondering about this for a long time and I wanted to know: how can I make this agile mindset tangible for managers and me and work out the spongy theme of agility and character.

I believe that agility, especially in management, depends on the character of a person. You have this Agile Mindset or you don’t have it – I think. So there is a specific character or character image that is considered agile or at least people see the doctrine of agility represented. In this article, I want to first show how to describe a character and then show from conversations with managers what such a character that is considered “agile” looks like.

Description of a character

Authentic management is described as mindset, behavior, or personal attitude. Managers are often concerned with the character that is supposed to be decisive for success. A character can be described with the Big Five (also five-factor model). The Big Five model is now considered a kind of standard for describing personalities and has been used in over 3,000 scientific studies over the past twenty years (John et al. 2008). The following Figure 1 roughly shows the model and presents three examples per high and low factor expression for each of its dimensions. For a better understanding, each dimension is briefly explained:

  • Openness: The willingness to deal with new issues without a bias
  • Conscientiousness: self-control and accuracy of a person
  • Extraversion: Setting in dealing with other people
  • Tolerance: The adaptation and ability to understand other people.
  • Neuroticism: Emotional and psychological strength of a person
Figure. 1: Big-five personality model

SURVEY ON THE CHARACTER OF A TOP MANAGER

The question now is what the character of a top manager might look like and what qualities are relevant for authentic management. I have evaluated the Big Five model through a survey on the blog and in personal conversations with top managers from my circle. The managers from my area were as follows:

  • 4 x Managers with 50-99 employees,
  • 9 x Manager with 100-249 employees,
  • 3 x Manager with 250-499 employees and
  • 4 x Manager with over 500 employees.

The study is not strictly academic, but was carried out by me out of desire and interest. However, I have tried to ensure that the clean execution is done as far as possible. I showed the managers 15 sliders – 3 per category of the framework. The sliders should be weighted between two opposing values, e.g. speed/perfection. The average values of the respective answers and characteristics of the character can be found as a mission statement in the following Figure 2. Task of the managers was to define a target image, which you would see as an authentic and good character of a manager.

Figure. 2: Determined value image of the top managers

The model shows a mission statement for the character of a manager. The mission statement can serve as an orientation for current top managers. In the following, the results are explained in more detail and compared with current top managers in an exemplary way. The comparisons are based on reports of current media and serve as an example.

Openness

The first dimension is openness: according to the subjects, a top manager should be interested in many things and be open to the unusual. There should also be a slight tendency towards a positively crazy character. Especially manager types like Elon Musk (Tesla) and Steve Jobs (Apple) emphasize these traits and have often been called “positively crazy” by the media. Especially initial incomprehensible visions such as the iPhone or the journey to the moon or flying taxis shaped this picture.

Conscience

The second dimension is conscientiousness. Managers should not be particularly conscientious, according to the top managers surveyed. Above all, spontaneity and speed are more relevant than perfection and thoughtful behaviour. However, it is important to the respondents that there is a high degree of determination. Especially here, managers from start-ups such as Valentin Stalf (N26) and Dominik Richter (HelloFresh) underline these values. N26 and HelloFresh in particular showed great growth. According to both founders, speed and the spontaneous reaction to change were important characteristics.

Extraversion

The third dimension includes extraversion. A manager should be awakened, very sociable and a good communicator. Especially the aforementioned managers Jürgen Klopp and Dieter Zetsche show this behaviour. In the transformation of Daimler, Zetsche in particular had communicated numerous messages to relevant newspapers and made contact with employees. Jürgen Klopp also stands for open and clear communication, which is perceived by the media as authentic.

Compatibility

Tolerance is the fourth dimension. In general, the top managers interviewed describe the character as affable and compassionate. Only the value of harmony was not essential for the respondents, but a high competitive orientation in the decisions. Janina Kugel (Ex-Siemens) and Anna Alex (Outfittery) are particularly to be mentioned here. Janina Kugel in particular is particularly compassionate by statements on the improvement of working conditions in the course of flexible home office models and placed great emphasis on harmony within the Group.

Neuroticism

The last dimension is neuroticism. According to the respondents, a manager should be confident and relaxed. Furthermore, it should be moderating rather than convincing. Daniel Kraus (Flixbus) and Raffael Johnen (Auxmoney) are particularly worth mentioning. Both founders show in media and keynotes, which these keep a safe appearance.

Conclusion

Overall, according to the mission statement, a top manager should show a certain openness as well as a low conscientiousness, but a high extraversion. A top manager is thus a good communicator, very awakened and sociable. He attaches little importance to details and is a confident and relaxed person. The conclusion shows that the idea about one’s own behavior/character according to my record is strongly based on that of top managers from the media.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/fragezeichen-haufen-frage-marke-1495858/

Gender note: I have used the male form for easier reading. If no explicit distinction is made, women, miscellaneous and men as well as people of any origin and nation are always meant. Read more.

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Sources

John, O., Laura, P. & Soto, C. (2008). Paradigm Shift to the Integrative Big Five Trait Taxonomy. Handbook of Personality Theory and Research. 3rd edition. Pps. 114-117

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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