POETIC Leadership Enables Lean-Agile Leadership, Part Three: Intelligent and Curious

This is the third in a three-part series of articles covering the POETIC Leadership approach to Lean-Agile leadership, authored by Alex Gray, a Lean Agile Practice Lead at Cprime. Click below to visit Parts One and Two:

In the first article of this series, we discussed why organizations that wish to employ Lean-Agile methods must promote a culture that supports that way of working. And, we began discussing what that culture looks like and how they can develop it—first on a personal level, then organizationally. In the second, we covered why emotional intelligence is vital for Lean-Agile leaders, and the value of instilling team thinking into the organization.

We recommend reviewing both articles first, if you haven’t already, to get some context for what we’ll be discussing in this article: the Intelligent and Curious components of the POETIC Leadership model.

I – Intelligent

Of course, an effective leader must act intelligently. That should go without saying, but it’s not always a primary concern when people are hired or promoted. To be successful in a Lean-Agile environment, POETIC Leaders must have a sufficient IQ to support continuous learning, a solid grasp of Lean-Agile values and principles, strong domain knowledge to support the teams’ efforts, and the ability to utilize this intelligence when making business decisions.


Intelligent leaders need to have a good general IQ. Importantly, they don’t need to have a high IQ to be effective. It certainly can be helpful in a lot of situations, but there are also many other factors that are equally or more important for leadership success.

The main reason an adequate IQ is beneficial for leaders is because it means they will be able to absorb and retain vital information, and apply what they’ve learned to new situations and necessary decisions as they arise.

Lean-Agile Values and Principles

Intelligent leaders develop a solid understanding of Lean-Agile principles because they recognize these principles will help their organizations become more efficient, responsive, and innovative.

Lean is a philosophy and set of principles that focuses on maximizing value and minimizing waste across the organization. Agile is a framework for managing product, development, and teams. It’s based upon the idea of iterative and incremental development where teams work in short cycles or time boxes to deliver small high quality increments of a product or service together.

Lean-Agile principles can help leaders in many ways. For example, they can:

  • Improve efficiency and productivity by reducing waste and streamlining processes
  • Increase customer satisfaction by providing higher-quality products and services
  • Foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement by encouraging experimentation and learning
  • Enhance team collaboration and communication by promoting transparency and flexibility
  • Increase agility and adaptability, allowing organizations to respond quickly to changing market conditions and customer needs.

Overall, understanding Lean-Agile principles is very valuable for leaders who want to help their organizations become more effective and competitive.

Domain and Technological Knowledge

Having domain knowledge means having a deep understanding of the industry or field in which the organization operates, as well as the specific skills needed and functions performed by the teams under the leader’s authority. This can help leaders make informed decisions, anticipate trends and challenges, and stay ahead of the competition.

For example, a leader in the technology industry needs to understand the latest developments in software, hardware, and networking in order to make strategic decisions about the direction of the company.

Having technological knowledge, on the other hand, means having a general understanding of the latest technologies and how they can be applied to improve business operations. This can help leaders identify and implement new technologies that can drive innovation, increase efficiency, and improve customer satisfaction.

For example, a leader in the retail industry may need to understand the potential benefits and challenges of using artificial intelligence, blockchain, or the Internet of Things in order to make informed decisions about the company’s technology strategy.

Overall, having both domain knowledge and technological knowledge is crucial for leaders who want to be effective and successful in today’s dynamic business environment. It allows them to make informed and strategic decisions that can help their organizations stay competitive and achieve their goals.

Business Decision Making

Making effective business decisions is a crucial part of leadership. Leaders are often responsible for analyzing complex information, identifying key issues and challenges, and choosing the best course of action to achieve the organization’s goals.

To make good business decisions, leaders need to have a combination of skills and abilities. For example, they may need to be able to:

  • Analyze data and information to identify trends, patterns, and opportunities
  • Understand the organization’s mission, vision, and values, and align decision making with these principles
  • Consider the potential risks and benefits of different courses of action
  • Communicate clearly and effectively with others to gather input, provide information, and build consensus
  • Make difficult decisions in a timely and confident manner, even when there is uncertainty or disagreement

In the end, the purpose of all the other aspects of Intelligence is to support making effective business decisions that will benefit the organization.

C – Curious

The final aspect of being a POETIC leader is to be curious. This quality works hand-in-hand with intelligence to support a continuous learning culture in the organization, and an environment that values exploration, experimentation, and innovation. All of these qualities, in turn, support the principle of continuous improvement, which is at the heart of Lean-Agile values.


Curious leaders are constantly searching for new information, new experiences, and new perspectives. They are often driven by a strong desire to learn and understand the world around them.

As a result, they will remain on top of industry trends, new advancements or best practices that can be applied to the business decisions they make.

Without this quality, leaders can quickly stagnate, halting their teams’ progress as well.


Curious leaders embed an experimental mindset in their organization—a culture of forming hypotheses, designing experiments, and evaluating the data from the experiment. The results of the experiments can inform future design, strategies and products.

Experimentation is another core principle of the Lean-Agile methodology: short, iterative production combined with a strong feedback loop supports continuous improvement in both the quality of the product and the efficiency of the process.

Encouraging experimentation relies heavily on the psychological safety we discussed previously because team members—and the leader themselves—need to feel comfortable with taking calculated risks and potentially making mistakes in the name of improvement.


Closely related to experimentation is the idea of innovation, which is vital to organizational success in today’s lightning-fast competitive environment.

Curious leaders are open-minded and receptive to new ideas and feedback; they’re not afraid to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and try new things in order to gain a deeper understanding of the situation or a problem.

This can often help them identify and solve complex challenges and come up with creative and innovative solutions. And it can often allow them to enable their teams to be creative and come up with innovative solutions. Curious leaders often:

  • Identify and prioritize opportunities for innovation, based on the organization’s goals and the market environment
  • Communicate a clear vision and strategy for innovation, and align the organization’s resources and efforts towards achieving it
  • Encourage and support experimentation and risk-taking, and provide the necessary resources and support to enable innovation to flourish
  • Foster a culture of collaboration, communication, and continuous learning, and provide opportunities for team members to develop their skills and knowledge
  • Monitor and manage the progress of innovation initiatives, and make adjustments as needed to ensure their success

Learning and the Growth Mindset

Curious leaders are lifelong learners who constantly seek new opportunities to learn and grow. They might be interested in a wide range of subjects—from their own industry or field, to the arts, the sciences, and many other disciplines. This allows them to bring diverse and well rounded perspectives to their leadership role. And, it encourages their teams to follow that example, promoting a growth mindset.

Teams permeated by a growth mindset believe that they can improve and develop their skills and abilities through effort and learning. They see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn, rather than as threats or setbacks. This approach helps leaders stay open to new ideas and approaches, and enables them to adapt and respond effectively to changing circumstances.

Having a growth mindset can also help leaders foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement within their team or organization. By modeling a growth mindset themselves, leaders can inspire others to adopt this perspective and approach to their work. This can lead to a more innovative and adaptable team or organization, which can be better equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities of an ever-changing world.


Curious leaders often want to go and experience what’s really happening in the world and the workplace for themselves.

A great technique for curious leaders is gemba, a Japanese term that means “the place” where value is created and work is done. For leaders it is the practice of going to the ‘gemba’ to observe and understand the work processes and identify opportunities for improvement.

Gemba is not about getting status updates. By going to the gemba and seeing firsthand how work is being done, leaders can gain valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the current process and identify opportunities for streamlining, efficiency, and continuous improvement.

Additionally, going to the gemba can help Agile leaders build trust and credibility with their teams by showing that they are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved. Overall, going to the Gemba is an important part of being an effective Agile leader.


To lead Lean-Agile organizations, the culture leaders create is the most valuable thing they can work on.

In this article, we have summarized some of the key techniques and practices for Lean-Agile leaders to be aware of: POETIC Leadership. Not all leaders will be great at everything. But making sure they have a good balance of all six aspects will build a strong foundation for success.

How POETIC are you?

To better understand these concepts and support your and your organization’s leadership abilities, explore our value-based, experiential learning courses for leadership development.

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Alex Gray, Lean Agile Practice Lead & Certified Scrum Trainer®
Alex Gray, Lean Agile Practice Lead & Certified Scrum Trainer®