Leaders are Made, They are not Born

The famous Vince Lombardi quote may be a familiar one to many of you.  Vince elaborates with “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”

 Leaders are Made

Why is this important in any Agile adoption?  A large number of organizations today continue to operate in a more Tayloristic model. Functions are separated by specialty and a management function provides some sort of oversight.

Agile approaches tend to take a different view. Clear work direction is provided from the business and is responded to by a team or teams of self-organizing, self-directed, motivated individuals (agilemanfiesto.org). One of the more popular Agile approaches, Scrum, has a collaborative leader called a Product Owner being the single voice so that the Development Team performing the work is not confused with competing or conflicting priorities. A coach, or Scrum Master, ensures that people work together on the highest order item and move on to the next one, and the next one, ensuring that quality is not sacrificed, impediments are addressed and that people continuously improve (scrumguides.org).

What becomes of managers in an Agile adoption?  A number of organizations will refer to functional managers or leaders of functional managers broadly as “leaders”.  But there is a distinct difference. Leaders go first. People follow the leader, not because they have to, but because they want to. People are inspired by the leader and continue to grow under their guidance.  Managers have people who work for them. Managers tend to direct and to control.

 Leaders are Made

One of the functional managers that our firm has the pleasure of no longer coaching (because they no longer need us) said it best. “Agile freed me to step into being the leader I’ve always wanted to be. When people try to come into my office to whine, to vent or to tattle, I tell them to go talk to their teammates, to bring it up at a Retrospective or to work with your Scrum Master. I’m out of the adult daycare providing business.”

Contrast that with another organization whose functional managers said they were ready for a change to Agile and when their people engaged in whining, venting and avoidance, the managers enabled the behavior, colluded and coddled the people venting and blamed Agile and Scrum.

So how does someone in a management role become a leader?  Firstly, ask yourself if you are taking on your staff’s issues. When they bring a problem to you, do you tell them it’s ok and that you’ll take care of it all? Or do you ask them for their thoughts and ideas? 

Secondly, don’t enable venting. Turn the conversation around with powerful questions such as, “What did you do to help in this situation?” Or, “What could you do to turn the situation around?”

Lastly, check your reactions. You may react emotionally to what’s being said that can be interpreted as acceptance, colluding or “getting on board” with whatever it is the person is venting about. Neutrally listen and respond with an appropriate, powerful question.

One of the programs Collaborative Leadership Team is hosting to help create Agile leaders is the Certified Scrum Leadership 1 or CAL1 program from the Scrum Alliance.  Michael Sahota will be joining us September 13 & 14 to share his powerful tools for today’s leader being asked to help make positive change in their organizations.  To learn more please visit this event link.