Leadership in agile organizations

1 05 2011

While reading leadership theories there are some patterns that fits well with agile values, principles and ways of work.

In The Starfish & the Spider (Brafman, Beckstrom) the role of the Catalyst is prominent. The one who just acts in the background, connecting people, make changes by full attention listening, true interest in the other person (team member for example) and respect. A quote from the book: ”If you have a boring conversation with someone at a dinner for example, it’s just you who haven’t asked the right questions yet”  That’s the way of thinking of the catalyst, always finding something interesting about a person, worth of respect.

In As One (Baghai) two leadership archetypes are outstanding, fitting with agile way of work – Community Organizer & Volunteers  and
Captain & Sports Team

A short quote from the summary: ”Community Organizers ignite volunteers’ interest through compelling storytelling and opportunities for volunteers to join in.[…] Volunteers themselves are drawn together by a rallying cry, or out of a sense of enlightened self-interest; they gain their power through a strength-in-numbers approach.

The Captain & Sports Team pairing operates with minimal hierarchy and acts like a single cohesive and dynamic organism, adapting to new strategies and challenges with great agility as they appear. […] There is strong camaraderie and trust among the sports team – the collective good outweighs the needs of the individual – while captains are there, on the field as part of the team, to motivate and encourage.

and more reading:

Ken Blanchard observes, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”

In ”How to extend your influence” Rockwell talks about the necessity for a modern leader to leave isolation to have influence on others by building communities:

”Community building contradicts isolation and means:
1.    You join their team before they join yours.
2.    They win before you win.
3.    They influence you before you influence them.
4.    You, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood,” Stephen R. Covey.
5.    You give before they give.
No one freely joins your community when they believe you’re in it for yourself.”

This way of  leadership style I believe is what you need to do if you want to introduce agile and get the full effect of the agile models.

The Dao De Jing famous quote ”Of the best leaders the people say – ‘we did it ourselves'” says exactly what the agile leadership is all about.

You need to get your people to buy in by themselves, by finding what’s their glow , by letting them fail forward, learn and try. Back off, and be there for them when they need you and asks for your help.

About the problem solving role that many project managers I know have, love and are much appreciated for – there is an option for being the catalyst community builder type. Going Andon.

At the production line at Scania Sweden they have something called an ”Andon person”. Inspired by Toyota of course. This is the role I wish all you problem solving lovers out there will have in the near future . The Andon is someone the team calls upon when they can’t fix a problem by themselves. They pull a signal and the Andon shows up.

The Andon corresponds to ScrumMaster but is a somehow more comfortable and easy to explain role in my opinion.

The leadership is changing for sure. Maybe all of us need to change.

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