All Managers are Not Necessarily Your Agile Leaders

September 12, 2013 CollabNet VersionOne

Leadership is the ability to influence or inspire others to achieve shared goals.
Dees, et al., 2007

When an organization transitions from traditional project management to using Agile Methodologies, one of the first things I see most of my clients do is have their traditional managers basically switch titles to become Scrum Masters. Asking someone to transition from a manager position to a leadership role is difficult at best. Especially when we do not take the time to define what is needed for that leadership role; much of which has to do with corporate culture, but also with defining other aspects such as discipline, human and emotional intelligence, ethics, establishing trust, learning, etc.

This sounds easy, but it is not. Think about what defines leadership and how you would be able to quantify any definition.

And then there is the holistic part of quantifying good leadership. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have experienced excellent leadership. As a child, I had good leadership and didn’t know it, as a United States Marine, I experienced good and bad leadership, and the results were self-evident. As a professional in the civilian world, I have had great managers, but few great leaders.

When I look back and try to define good leadership, the first thought that comes to mind is “they’ve got my back”. Regardless of the decisions I have made, a good leader was there to guide me and protect me. I think that a good leader will always try to encourage everyone to take the initiative and help guide through the judgment.

This leads to the second immediate thought I had when thinking about good leaders: “They let me use my own ideas to accomplish the goal”. So, these leaders usually came to me with a goal and let me figure out how to achieve it. And when I “failed”, I really didn’t. I just had an iteration of prototyping. It was ok. As long as I learned from it and improved. Sound familiar?

So, my message is to be more thoughtful to the leadership roles you are seeking and those you put into those roles. Good managers are typically very organized and can whip through administrative activities quickly and accurately. Good leaders can achieve results and growth in their teams.

Are you a good manager or a good leader or maybe both? What have you seen as the difference between a good manager and good leader? Let me know, either comment here or hit me on Twitter – @katiasul2.

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