Secrets to Great Agile Leadership

Adapted from the original article by Dan Sloan.

Are you a leader or a manager in your organization? Is your organization going through agile transformation? If the answer is yes to both of these questions, please read on. Here are some pointers that every agile leader should do to ensure you are moving in the right direction.

  1. Get out of the office (GooO). Get out of the information bubble from your inner network and start talking to people on the ground. Talk to the scrum teams, scrum masters and community of practices to figure out what is their biggest challenges and impediments working in the organization. Get unfiltered knowledge directly from the horse’s mouth rather than executive summary powerpoint from your inner circle. Talk to many different people. You will quickly learn and have a better feeling about what the biggest painpoints are.
  2. Stop referring to people as resources/capacity. Understand that software development is a complex task. Long gone days where the managers just throw more warm bodies, more hours, and more project managers to a problem and expect things to magically be solved. To truely achieve a high performing team and achive business agility, agile leaders need to create a fertile ground for agile culture to grow and to florish. Agile leaders need to lead by example and be the first to be the change that they want to see.
  3. Understand what’s important to others. A good leader understands that the “carrot and stick” philosophy will not get you very far when you want to attract the most talented employee to perform for the company. Understand the 3 factors of what truely motivates people: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Great leaders will use these three factors to encourage the right culture in the organization.
  4. Stop discussing about cronic issues and start fixing them. The team does not have basic agile knowledge? Technology stack too old and not supporting devops development? Approval process too cumbersome that it kills team agility? Every traditional organization have tough problems that seems to never go away. It is easy to create many meetings and steering committee to “discuss” about the cronic issue of an organization. Agile leaders should stop talking about the issue and be the driver to solve the issue. Start having concrete steps to remove the issue one step at a time. Be the servant leader your scrum teams deserve and need.
  5. Educate yourself on agile leadership and agile mindset. Agile leaders must have a growth mindset and strive to learn and continuously improve oneself on what kind of leadership is needed to build a successful customer-centric organization and high performing agile teams. This teaching is something that traditional MBA do not teach. Great agile leaders will strive to continuously learn and improve himself/herself.


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