My Background and Goals for this Blog
Employing Leadership techniques on Agile Projects

What has Leadership got to do with Agile Project Management?

The techniques promoted as Agile Project Management are far closer aligned to Leadership than traditional project management.

Leadership, as defined by authors such as Bennis and Pinto focuses on people not tasks, empowerment not control, effectiveness not efficiency, direction over speed. Leadership experts Kouzes and Posner describe four key leadership practices:

  1. Develop a Shared Vision
  2. Challenge the Process and Adapt
  3. Empower Others to Act
  4. Encourage the Heart

All principles familiar to those managing agile projects.

So, when we talk about effective agile project management I believe we are actually talking more about leadership behaviours than project management behaviours.  Doug DeCarlo summarized it well with the paradoxical phrase: “You lead people by standing behind them” by which he means: supporting them, assisting them, encouraging them.

However, there is a big problem with the word “Leadership”. Many people associate it with “Great Man theory”, i.e. some charismatic, visionary guide. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth; a true leadership role is one of facilitator. As Lao-Tzu (604 BC) is quoted as saying “When the best leader's work is done, the people say, We did it ourselves” - and rightly so.

I think managers of agile projects can gain great insights from leadership best practices. I will be reviewing specific techniques in future posts.


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