Leadership Skills

Skills for Successful Leaders in an Agile Environment

Skills for Successful Leaders in an Agile Environment
by Pete R.

Successful leaders in Agile environments don’t just happen! Instead, such leaders follow the tried and proven paths to the positions they find themselves in. Most importantly, they know how to lead their teams.

Below are some of the skills required for successful leadership in an Agile environment.

Servant Leadership

As anyone who has worked in any software development team will tell you, most of the focus is often on tools and programs. In this instance, it might be easier to forget that you are working with people. However, a good leader understands the role of people in all this!

Consequently, leaders provide the type of leadership that everybody in the team craves. Through servant leadership, the leader can craft a philosophy and practices or habits that enrich the life of every member of the team.

However, the servant leader must display the following qualities, too:

  • Valuing diverse opinions
  • Cultivating a culture of trust
  • Developing other leaders within the team
  • Helping members of the team with life issues/problems
  • Offering constant encouragement and motivation
  • Selling ideas instead of telling the members what to do all the time
  • Thinking of the members ahead of himself
  • Developing long-term thinking
  • Acting with humility

Attention to Details

Successful leadership in the Agile environment requires attention to details. In essence, nothing should pass you by. Otherwise, you will not be able to take your team to the place you want them to reach.

Plenty of work goes on in software development. The creativity is topnotch.

The ability to continually find solutions in tight deadlines is also quite impressive. One has to be alert to all that’s happening to ensure that everything operates like a well-oiled machine!

Moreover, the fast-paced nature of software development requires being on top of your game. You can’t afford to switch off even for a single minute. Furthermore, changes are constant. The amount of random stuff emerging all the time is enough to send you into a spin.

Decentralize Decision-Making

Many leaders in Agile environment prefer being the decision-makers. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, a better approach involves decentralizing the decision-making process. This way, you rest safe in the knowledge that your absence won’t affect the work.

In environments where decision-making is decentralized, anyone can take up a leadership role and drive the agenda forward. As this happens, nothing will stop the project or derail it unless something huge happens!

Nevertheless, it’s important to mention that decentralized decision-making doesn’t just happen. Many times, it might not be as effective as the leader envisaged. For the most part, the main reason behind this is the lack of empowering.

Successful leaders in an Agile environment are renowned for their ability to empower members of the teams working under them. Empower your people! Nothing will get the job done more satisfactorily and beyond your wildest imaginations better than empowering team members.

Ability to Motivate

As previously stated, Agile environments are full of real people. Such people are prone to moments or prolonged periods of discouragement and lack of motivation. Successful leaders can notice such moments and find solutions fast.

Otherwise, the team will suffer. It only takes 1-2 discouraged and demotivated people to derail everyone else. The result is the entire project falls behind schedule. Consequently, clients grow frustrated and unhappy with your efforts.

For this reason, leaders working in such environments have to learn how to motivate their charges. Remember, the team has a vision and mission to which it aspires. Failure to drive each member makes it harder for the team to attain its goals.

A highly motivated team would have no problem overcoming these common Agile challenges:

- Honoring new processes - Lack of effective communication with business owners and stakeholders - Inability to adapt to emerging changes

Nurturing Talent

Leaders in any Agile environment appreciate the array of talent that works under them. They know that this talent needs proper nurturing. Otherwise, serious problems and disharmony could arise and derail the entire project.

The primary motivation for nurturing talent is to ensure that all members of the team push towards the same goal. Here, the goal is to pursue the same vision and mission. The team needs a leader to show them how to do this.

Successful leaders can identify how and where each talent fits in the Agile team. They can mix and match the different skills available within the team so that everyone works efficiently together like clockwork.

Providing Protection

In some cases, a few members of the Agile team might be disinterested in pursuing the vision. When the Agile leaders notice this, they should immediately step in to correct the situation. One way of doing this is by protecting everyone else from the uninterested members.

A second alternative revolves around setting aside time to meet with those who seem unexcited about the vision and goals of the Agile team. During the meeting, explain to these members why they need to be supportive and enthused about the project.

In many instances, it would be quite exceptional to get rid of the bad apples. After all, since the goal is to protect those working towards the vision from those who aren’t, then it follows that any action is taken to ensure the project continues, unhindered would be highly welcome.

In conclusion, it’s worth stating that each team leader needs to identify the skills that the Agile team needs. The leader should then work towards developing the required set of skills. Use the qualifications listed above as a starting point!


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