So as we continue to look at Agile Leadership and what makes a great Agile leader, I would like to talk about the worst Agile boss I ever worked for. Several years ago I worked for a company in a group that was responsible for custom software development and custom interfaces. Two of the original leaders of the group had left, one to another division in the company and another to start a new venture. The manager that remained (we will call him Bob) was very power hungry and led the team by fear.
Now the VP in charge of our group indicated that he would like for the teams in our group use an Agile approach for software development. This Agile approach came in the form of adoption of an Agile tool, and doing daily stand-up meetings with the teams. So Bob decided to start doing daily stand-ups with our team. Bob would have us sit down in a meeting room first thing in the morning (~8am) and interrogate us about what work we had done. If he was not satisfied with the answer he would prod and question and demand the answer he wanted about the work. I imagine Bob would have considered himself to be the ScrumMaster. However, this was far from the servant leadership / coach role that a ScumMaster is supposed to play.
I remember in one particular “Stand-up” with Bob, he interrogated and questioned one of my team mates to the point that he was in tears. I can honestly say that in all my working career this was the only time (and still is) that I have seen a grown man break down in tears in a meeting at the office. Bob seemed to get great satisfaction in intimidating team members and having unquestioning adherence to his program. Unfortunately nothing about Bob’s approach was Agile. An Agile leader serves their team, not intimidating them and leading by fear. An Agile leader empowers their team, and helps them to do their best work, and to self-organise. Bob did none of these things.
An Agile leader provides vision that the team can work towards and be inspired by. Bob provided no vision, and in one meeting when asked what the vision was for the team, his only answer was awkward silence. Bob was actually threatened by his team members doing well, and wanted to make sure no one rose above him, so he used fear and intimidation. An Agile leader looks to bring out the best in their team, and by doing so brings out the best in themselves. Indeed Bob was an objet lesson in how NOT to be an Agile Leader, whether ScrumMaster, Product Owner, Agile Manager, or executive!
If there is any key lesson here for me it would be: As an Agile leader don’t be like BOB! In fact when I think back on my time working on Bob’s team it helps me to be very clear what I NEVER want to do to my team or others as a leader!
Until next time, Stay Agile!