Chet Hendrickson, CST
Agile Leadership comes in two flavors. Organizational leadership and team leadership.
Both are quite different from what we usually expect in business leadership and both are required
for true Agility.
In traditional organizations we expect leaders to make decisions that will be implemented
by those below them in the food chain. Decisions about what to do, about who will do it, and
about who to blame when decisions don’t quite work out. These are the guys waterskiing behind
the Roman galley while the rest of us pull an oar. This is the style of leadership described by
Frederick Taylor well over one hundred years ago.
In an Agile organization, a leaders primary job is to assemble a team that can be successful
and then stand ready to make whatever adjustments need to made to keep the team operating at
So, what would that team look like? An Agile team has a vision of what needs to be done.
An Agile team can finish what they start without outside help. An Agile team is full of leaders.
When we assemble a team, we need to start with someone who knows what to build and
and in what order to build it. Scrum calls this person the Product Owner. Their job is to lead the
team with that vision. Like all good leaders, our Product Owner does not keep their vision to
themselves, but instead actively shares it with the rest of the team. By doing this, they allow their
team mates to contribute to the product vision. Good leadership is situational, whoever has the
best idea gets to lead.
We will also need some folks who can turn that product vision into reality. Our name for
this group is Development Team. Because finishing is more important than starting, our Dev
Team members need to have all the skills required to build anything our Product Owner asks for.
This may sound difficult to do, but who said success was easy? When our team is adequately
skilled, every member can become a leader. Sometimes that leadership is focused on technology
AGILE LEADERSHIP 1
and other times it it focused on improving how our team works together. On a good team, the
members know when it is time to lead and when it is time to follow.
In real Agile, everyone has the opportunity to lead and everyone has the opportunity to
follow. And, isn’t that the way life should be?