Leadership for Scrummies (wk 2)

Julius CeasarWhy a post on leadership for Scrummies… Isn’t Scrum all about being a team with no formal hierarchy? A team without a leader? Does that imply that leadership has no part in Scrum? I say leadership is essential in Scrum!

The first thing that will jump into peoples minds when they hear Leadership is the personification of it in a Leader. A person, but not just any person, a special person. Names come to mind immediately off course – Julius Ceasar, Alexander the Great, Muhammed, Jezus Christ, George Patton, Erwin Rommel, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi, Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela and so on. All great examples of great leaders in one form of another. Some of religion, some of battles, some of businesses, some of nations. But I want to talk about leadership, not leaders.

So why are these leaders good examples of leadership? To put it simply, they give direction to something. They inspire and incite! Leadership is often defined as getting a group working to a common goal. And that is exactly what we do within Scrum. We as a team work towards a common goal – getting the sprint done. And we need a form of Leadership in Scrum to accomplish that. Scrum needs leadership but without a leader.

There are theories around leadership that go beyond the focus on one single leader. They go under names as Shared-, Horizontal-, Collective-, Distributed- or Collaborative Leadership. Most definitions come down to something like a structure in which multiple individuals or groups influence each other to reach a common goal. After doing some research I was surprised to find that there was very little available. Leadership studies seemed to have been focused on individual leadership. But I did find just enough to enable me to finish this post with some scientific foundation. Ancient Rome, for instance, successfully used co-leadership for over four centuries.

CompanyHANDSSo back to the … for Scrummies part. What do I want to make you realise, what do I want you to think about? I want you all to realise that Leadership is an important part in a successful Scrum team. Why? Think about it, where are we going if there is no direction. Why do we do the work if we aren’t inspired? And I don’t mean the Product Owner that gives direction in scope. Or the Scrum Master that gives direction to the process. I’m talking about Team Members inspiring each other en enticing the best in every single member. A good example that’s close to home is the Team Member who has the analytical skills and understands risks and quality. He or she needs to get everybody thinking about quality so the team will end up with a good solution. So start leading your team, but stay open to being lead.

I hope that you think about what being leaders means in your situations. Please drop me a note how you lead each other!

Tune in next week for: Compliance for Scrummies

One comment

  1. Anko Tijman gave the following reply via LinkedIn:
    “Hi Bram, leuk stuk maar wat mij betreft had je nog wat dieper in kunnen gaan op het type leiderschap wat je verwacht in een Scrum team. Je zegt dat er weinig over bekend is, maar wat zijn jouw ideeën en behoeften?”

    The jist of it in English is that he found the post lacking some depth in what type of leadership I expect in a Scrum team. What my ideas and needs are. First off thanks to Anko for the read and the reply. Here is my answer:

    I think that a scrum team needs a type of group leadership where every member becomes the leader when his specific qualities will have a positive effect on the team itself and with that on reaching the common goal. How often do I hear that testers complain that their warnings are being thrown in the wind by the team or the PO. Why is it that a lot of them can’t entice people to understand the risks involved and the need for testing. I think that exactly that is a lack of leadership on the testers part in this example.
    People who are seen as leaders will be heard even if they are not a vertical or hierarchical leader. So to conclude: Every team member needs to be able to be a leader to the team in their respective specialty. They can be this by truly believing in their knowledge en radiate that feeling. This will be seen by the team as a form of leadership in that specialty and they will follow the judgment of this leader. This will also entice the other team members to learn more about each others specialties. Win win win so to say.

    I hope this answers Anko’s question. I welcome you all to give your opinion an/or experience.

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