Scrum masters have to know and be able to apply effective leadership styles to serve agile teams. Servant leadership alone is not enough, Scrum masters and tech leads need to know a variety of leadership styles to support agile teams and help them to deliver value. This post provides an overview of many effective leadership styles that Scrum masters can use when working in agile teams.
The Scrum guide states that “the Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team”. Scrum masters should help teams to adopt Scrum and improve their way of working, and serve the team by creating an environment where people can work effectively and are protected from outside interference.
Servant leadership is a style that is often mentioned as the leadership approach that Scrum master can use. Mindtools describes it as:
As a servant leader, you’re a “servant first” – you focus on the needs of others, especially team members, before you consider your own. You acknowledge other people’s perspectives, give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions where appropriate, and build a sense of community within your team. This leads to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders.
Although servant leadership can be effective when leading self-organizing teams, it isn’t the only leadership style that Scrum masters and tech leads can use. In fact, there are many other effective leadership styles. A good Scrum master has a toolbox with leadership styles and practices, and knows what to use in which situation.
Here are different leadership styles that Scrum masters can use to support and lead agile teams:
- Situational leadership
- Intent-based leadership
- Sociocracy 3.0
- Host leadership
- Servant leadership
- Reinventing organizations
- Management 3.0 and managing for happiness
- Soul centered leadership
- Story telling
- Humble Leadership
- Invitation Leadership
- Sense-and-respond Leadership
- Elastic Leadership
My suggestion to Scrum masters is to read about these leadership styles and try using them in your daily work.
Working as a freelance editor with InfoQ for Culture and Methods gives me access to many modern inspiring ways to manage organizations. Over the years I’ve spoken with people that have had a significant influence in leadership, like David Marquet, Jeff Sutherland, Dave Snowden, Jurgen Appelo, Frederik Laloux, Esther Derby, Bonnitta Roy, and many others.
Here are some of the interviews that I have done for InfoQ in which opinion leaders and practitioners share their leadership stories:
- David Marquet on Applying Intent-based Leadership in Agile
- Jeff Sutherland on Agile Leadership
- Dave Snowden on Leadership
- Jurgen Appelo on Managing for Happiness
- Frederic Laloux on Reinventing Organizations
- Esther Derby on Establishing an Environment for Leadership
- Dean Leffingwell about Lean and Agile Leadership and SAFe
- Jason Fox on How to Lead a Quest
- Jeff Sutherland on Scrum
- Christopher Avery on Self Leadership for Agility
- Jurgen Appelo on Better Management with Fewer Managers
- Jorg Vletter on Holacracy
- James Priest and Bernhard Bockelbrink on Sociocracy 3.0
- Klaus Leopold and Sigi Kaltenecker on Kanban Change Leadership
- Selena Delesie on Leadership Principles for Agile Organizations
- Tomasz Wykomski on Servant Leadership
- Jason Little on Leadership and Management Approaches from Radical Companies
- Pieter van der Meché on Sociocracy
- Pierluigi Pugliese on Host Leadership
- Patrick Kua about Technical Leadership
- Katherine Kirk on Rethinking Leadership
- Jürgen Dittmar on the Role of an Agile Manager
- Regina Martens on Anti-patterns of Agile Leaders
- Shawn Callahan on Storytelling
- Sigi Kaltenecker and Peter Hundermark on leading self-organising teams
- Bonnitta Roy on How self-organization happens
- Edgar and Peter Schein on Humble Leadership
Books on leadership
Here’s some recommended reading on leadership:
Try out new ways to lead teams
I try out ideas from these leadership experts and practitioners when I coach and mentor teams, Scrum masters, Product Owners and managers. I also teach leadership practices and skills in my workshops to help people to improve collaboration and increase their effectiveness. As always I’m more than happy to share my knowledge and experiences with you :-).
Who has inspired you with new ideas on leadership?
(Note: post has been updated on December 13, 2017 and February 20, 2019 and April 25, 2019: more leadership approaches added)