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Agile leadership is sometimes portrayed as, “Buy pizza and get out of the way.” Or, “Empowering teams to be more self-organizing and self-managing.” Neither of these descriptions is particularly accurate. Agile leaders have a uniquely challenging role. In fact, in many ways command and control, “my way or the highway” leadership is much simpler. The manager gives direction and the minions follow it. However, effective agile leadership results in much higher performance, greater innovation, and exciting new ideas.

One of the many things that agile leaders do is motivate teams. Dan Pink is the author of the recent best seller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. You may have seen Dan Pink’s “Motivation” presentation on Ted. This video went viral a couple of months ago. But, even more compelling is this artistic animation of Dan’s earlier talk. Give it a look, it’s well worth 10 minutes of your time.

2 Responses to “Agile Leadership and Motivation”

  • I’m not sure how much it relates to agile per se, but I’ve always looked at my role as a manager as more of the person who identifies ways to empower my team and break down barriers that would otherwise slow down progress, whether that be by ensuring they have the tools they need, access to the folks who can provide the information they need, etc. It would be interesting to hear how you see this fitting into agile. For non-software-companies (i.e., internal IT), there is bound to be political and other such challenges that can slow down a project. Do you see this continuing to be the role of management?

  • Matt – You absolutely have the right idea. An agile leader has a unique responsibility that includes everything you’ve described – enabling the team and helping remove their impediments to success. Additionally and Agile leader helps establish a shared vision and focus so that everyone understands why their work is important, and what their purpose is. I’m at the Agile2010 conference this week, and there is an entire track on Agile Management and Leadership. Great stuff, and way more valuable than the old myth that leaders “buy pizza and get out of the way”. Best wishes in your leadership success.

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I fear that, “agile as the latest magic bullet” has crossed the chasm, but that “agile as a different way of behaving” has not."
- Ken Collier
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