Adaptive Leadership Resources

There is a wealth of good source material for agile software development, less but still quite a bit of material on agile project management, and a growing number of general management books that can contribute better understanding to agile principles. However, in general, the material on adaptive/agile/lean leadership is more limited. This blog is an attempt to bring some of this diverse material together in a single reference point. If you think I’ve left out something important, please let me know and I’ll grow this list over time.

I’ve broken the list into several categories, and tried to keep each category fairly small. While a list of 50 books might be interesting, often times a list of 10 is more useful. The categories I’ve started with are: Adaptive Leadership/Management Books, General Leadership/Management Books that support Agility, Adaptive Leadership/Management Blog/Web Sites.

Adaptive Leadership/Management Books

Adaptive Software Development, Jim Highsmith. I include this book rather than my Agile Project Management book because it has more leadership philosophy in it. I coined the term, Leadership/Collaboration management.

Stand Back and Deliver: Accelerating Business Agility. Pollyanna Pixton, Niel Nickolaisen, Todd Little, Kent McDonald. Lots of good tips and practices about how to be an adaptive leader.

Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders. Jurgen Appelo. Hot off the press in early 2011, Jurgen has written a thought provoking book on applying complexity theories to the art and practice of leadership.

Response Agility: The Language, Structure, and Culture of the Agile Enterprise. Rick Dove. Rick’s book was published in 2001 and is about agility in general, not software development. However, he has some very interesting frameworks and ideas about agility even though they are sometimes academic.

Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work. Rob Austin and Lee Devin. Many agilists talk about a certain leadership “style.” Austin and Devin capture the essence of an adaptive leadership stylein this wonderful book.

General Leadership/Management Books that support Agility

Adventures of an IT Leader. Rob Austin and Richard Nolan. Ever wonder what issues are critical to a CIO? Austin, who ran the Harvard Business School Executive education program for CIOs and Dick Nolan, a noted HBS professor, give us insight into a CIOs trials and tribulations. If we want to bring agility into the executive suite, we need to know what their concerns are.

Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century. Stephen Denning. A new book and probably the one that comes the closest to being a first read for executives and managers who want to understand the core ideas of Adaptive Leadership.

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Daniel Pink. Adaptive leadership is about engaging and inspiring individuals and teams to be innovative and productive. Pink draws on 50 years of research to give us insight into what motivates really people (rather than what many managers erroneously think motivates us).

The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing Opportunity in an Uncertain World. Donald Sull. Why is agility and responsiveness so important? Donald Sull provides key answers to this question. Developing strategic business reasons to be more agile and adaptive is part of an adaptive leaders’ job description.

How Leaders Build Value: Using People, Organization, and Other Intangibles to Get Bottom-Line Results. Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood. The agile and lean movements emphasize value-driven processes. This book approaches value from a comprehensive standpoint, emphasizing how intangible value (think quality and technical debt reduction) can enhance the bottom line.

Adaptive Leadership/Management Blog/Web Sites

The Agile Executive. Israel Gat. A former agile executive himself, Israel writes and consults from the perspective of having led a significant agile transformation.

The Agile Manager. Ross Pettit. Another ThoughtWorker who consultant on and writes about Agile Management issues.

Daniel H. Pink. Author of Drive and A Whole New Mind has interesting tidbits on agile-like management issues.

Management 3.0. Jurgen Appelo. A web site to go with his new book.

ManagementLab. Gary Hamel. Gary is a well-respected management author and consultant whose site and not profit organization have a mission to “accelerate the evolution of management.” He is also author of an HBR article, “Moon Shots for Management”, a list of 25 management challenges for the future.

LeadingAnswers. Mike Griffiths. While Mike’s blog focuses at project management, he has some great ideas about leadership that apply both for PM and beyond. A well-respected blog.


    1. Have you read the US Army research about “Adaptive Thinking”?