Thursday, July 28, 2016

Which type of agile leader are you?

Agility relies on self-organization. Leadership is considered situational in most agile approaches. Most agilists agree that the role of an agile leader is to bring the team forward, but remain vague what actually characterizes a leader. This leadership characteristic model is based on the Stacey model and is intended to create an understanding of what kind of leadership to look for in which situation. It also explains why having a single person designated as leader is suboptimal.

Where is your team - and where are you going?

Let us explain the model basis briefly.
"Understanding" is how well the team understands their goal and the way to reach it. "Ability" is how experienced the team is in achieving this type of goal. A leader serves the team to reach this goal.

The Protector

When the team is playing on home ground, they mainly need to keep focus. The protector wards off distractions and maintains the discipline. Protectors are not concerned with the "how" and "what".

The Optimizer

When the team has good understanding and ability concerning the challenge, they may just want to do the same thing a little better or reach the goal slightly easier. Optimizers look for the small things with high attention to detail. They experiment with different ways of working, keeping their overall goal in mind.

The Trailblazer

Let us resort to a Wild West metaphor. Trailblazers were masters in scouting and survival. They could rely on their skills, but never on a specific plan. They constantly struggled with unexpected challenges, so that others could reach their goal easier and safer.

The Navigator

Imagine the Seven Seas during the time of colonization. Sailing was never a safe endeavour, not even in charted territory. Navigator helped the crew steer towards the goal on the best possible route. They were constantly cautious of unexpected circumstances that might mandate a change in direction.

The Doer

When you're obese and the doctor told you to exercise, you pretty much know what to do and where your goal is. But you haven't done it - otherwise, you wouldn't have that problem. It can really help to have a non-judgmental, diligent person to do it with you. This will keep you motivated until you get the hang of it.

The Daredevil

A real adventure happens when you have no idea where you're going or what it takes to get there. This is not for the faint of heart! Your next action may end in disaster, and you have no way of knowing that until it happened. Some people enjoy this thrill. Being positive, with more of a "can-do attitude" than reliance on "have-done experience", the daredevil is never afraid to catch a bloody nose. If the endeavour fails - at least, we learned what we should not do again!


None of the leadership traits examined in this article require a position of authority or a job title. Such leadership is situational. It occurs subliminally during day-to-day work and is very fluent. Everyone exhibits some form of leadership traits and everyone's leadership is appreciated. Some people lead well in more than one type of situation. Few people can appropriately in all situations. It takes wisdom to understand when to lead and when to follow.
The challenge is building up positive leadership traits in all team members and aligning them to a common purpose.

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