Dec 5th, 2017

Scrum Master is Servant Leader but what is Servant Leadership


Agilemania, a small group of passionate Lean-Agile-DevOps consultants and trainers, is the most tru... Read more

Servant Leadership

Servant leader is servant first – not that literally serving tea/coffee or snacks. Objective of this is to enhance and increase teamwork and personal involvement. A servant Leader is one who
  • Build trust
  • Empowers team
  • Encourage them to achieve the next level
  • Empathetic
  • Ethical and caring
  • Humble and socially aware
I remember while working in one of the scrums when everyone in the team felt bored of attending daily scrum at same place every-day, which is when our scrum master (I was part of development team then) took us to coffee shop and spent 15 mins for the daily scrum. This is what a servant leader is, he encourages team to perform, to remain energetic every single day.

He is the one who ensure team is gelling well and interacting with each other. He who understand the teams need and ensure team understand the business objective and thereby working towards the common goal. Having said that it doesn’t mean a scrum master asks team not to create noise in case of any conflict.

Rather he is the one leads the team through healthy conflicts and debates in case of difference of opinion. During one of our scrum delivery, when we were taking the code into production, we surfaced a critical issue at the last minute. The scrum team I was working with was on top of it and they ensure the issue was fixed before code went LIVE.

There was no push from scrum master to stay back till late and resolve the issue, it was team’s decision. This is an apt example of self-organizing team and this is where a scrum master should feel pride about. To have this level of coordination and empowerment within the team is what a true servant leader is.

Servant’s leadership is

  • To serve your people/your team with heart
  • Listen to them
  • To invest time in team, to educate them, to inspire them
  • Telling them their mistakes politely and help them improving so as to ensure its not repeated
Servant leadership takes time to cultivate; it’s a foundation stone for long term relationship between team and scrum master. If practiced correctly the results will be reflected in the product delivered at the end. The scrum master sets the example for the team. He educates team with his actions, his words. He is the one who nurtures the team to demonstrate their skill set and improve there on. This is how he develops trust and respect with team.

Summing it up

Servant leadership philosophy was defined by Robert K. Greenfield way back in 1970 in an essay “The servant as Leader”, way before when scrum was identified. Its take time and practice to become a servant leader hence needs time to absorb and team to understand. Being determined and focused to achieve this will have a long lasting impression not only within the scrum you are working with but at organizational level as well.


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