5 Days of Leadership
Monday – Level 5 Leadership
Most agree leadership is important, but there are many definitions out there. Are you a leader? Do you have leadership in you? The ScrumMaster role is often described as a servant leader, so it’s worth some focused time on it.
One of the classic business books is Good to Great. In the book, Jim Collins talks about Level 5 Leadership, the highest of all and a level few CEO’s attain. There are good metaphors that describe that type of leader.
First, these leaders look out the window to assign credit, and look in the mirror to assign blame. Always try to deflect to the team when someone looks at the results and says “You’ve done a great job leading the team,” especially if it’s in a public situation, like a meeting. There are many ways to do this, for example, “It’s not me. It’s the team. Anyone could have done it if they had a team like this,” or “Thank you, but really, the team is the one responsible. They have really put in a lot of time, effort and heart into this, ” or even just point to some specific positive aspect of the team (perhaps from one of their retros), “The team really feels that _______ has been the key ingredient to the success we’ve had.”
Second, these leaders want to make clock-builders, not be time-tellers. Rather than always have the answer, or be quick to solve someone’s problem, Level 5 Leaders help team members solve their own problems or find their own answers. This builds their own abilities, ownership of the solution, empowers self-organization and makes teams faster. Many times making a clock-builder can be started by responding to a question with “What do you think?” I’ve been surprised how many times they already have an idea, they’re just looking for feedback, support, or political covering. You can answer with, “Well, try that out and let me know how it goes,” and watch as the team begins to solve more and more of their own problems.
Homework: Ask yourself: Does it feel good to solve people’s problems? To be needed? Or to be able to help? Is your value based in part on how critical you are for things to get done? Are you okay with them figuring out everything by themselves?
Tuesday, Common Team Needs
Marcus Buckingham said that the difference between management and leadership is that management looks at what is unique among people, and capitalizes on it, while leadership looks at what is common among people and capitalizes on that.
Knowing what the common concerns are, or addressing a common need, is important. Vision, a key leadership trait, is pointing to a common goal or destination that enables a group to rally around and towards that – a common goal or challenge as they struggle, fail, win and journey together.
Homework: Look at the common felt needs of employees compared to what management thinks they need. What do you think the top three for your team members are? List them in the next retro and have the team dot vote them.
Wednesday – Positional or Influential Leadership
The challenge, and the blessing, of leadership in the Scrum Master role is that you do not have authority over the team. You can’t tell them or force them to do anything. Yet, traditional, authoritative leadership is actually the lowest form of leadership. People aren’t as likely to truly be following you as a positional leader (for example, a manager). They are doing what you say, whether they like it or not, because they have to. In those situations, they’re not giving the positional leader their best, but only the minimum required. Just enough to not get in trouble or fired or noticed.
Having people listen to you, follow you, as a servant leader means you must learn and grow in the powerful area of influential leadership. Forming relationships, understanding their needs and concerns, fighting on their behalf, protecting them, taking hits for them.
Homework: Looking back over history, who do you admire? Any heroes or people that you respect the work they did, the impact they had, or the challenges that they overcame? If so, in what ways can you apply lessons from them for your life and work now? What would they tell you?
Thursday – People Development Wins Championships
John Maxwell wrote a very popular book on leadership. A few quotes from him:
“You can’t lead people without liking them.”
“At one level, you focus on becoming a change agent – focusing on productivity.”
“Productivity wins games. People development wins championships.”
“Besides the obvious competence, effort and skill, leadership also depends on intentionality.”
“To succeed as a leader, you must help others move forward.”
Homework: Pick one of the quotes you like (or another quote from the web page), print it out large to post on your wall at work, and small to put on your bathroom mirror or car dashboard. Keep it in front of you for a week. Don’t start your computer or end your day without looking at it (even better to say it to yourself) or start your car or brush your teeth without the same.
Stanton Complex – face the brutal facts, but don’t let go of hope. In 1965, Captain Stanton was shot down and in a POW camp in Vietnam. While others kept believing any day that they’d be released, the reality was they weren’t. These people ended up giving up, or worse. Stanton was hopeful, but not unrealistically so, and faced the reality that, also, they may never be released.
On your team, in your company, it may look grim. It doesn’t help to believe things will magically change based on nothing other than your wishful thinking. And yet, we have to hope and believe that there is a chance, a chance worth fighting for, that they someday could.
Always respond positively. Don’t join others in their complaining. Focus on solutions – what can you change, what experiment, what can you ask for, that might help. If you’re not sure, ask yourself, “Is this noble or excellent?”
Homework: Watch the video of Jim Collins (or listen to his audio clips), or Patrick Lencioni.
Note: This article was originally posted on Agile Coach and Trainer Scott Dunn’s personal blog, “Software Development and Human Capital: Leadership, Agile and Strengths.”