Kelly Waters is Web Technology Director for IPC Media, one of the UK's largest publishers of consumer magazines and web sites. Kelly has been in software development for about 25 years and is a well-known narrator of agile development principles and practices, as a result of his popular blog 'Agile Software Development Made Easy!' (www.agile-software-development.com). Kelly is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 40 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile
The strapline on this site - “Leading agile developers, Developing agile
leaders” - is great! A really clever play on words. But it got me
thinking. What is an agile leader? And how do we develop them?
qualities are desirable in any leader, whether their teams are
practicing agile software development or not. Should we really be
characterising these leadership attributes as 'agile leadership'. I
But, we can definitely say that agile leaders need
all the same strengths and qualities of any other inspirational leader,
but in addition they ought to lead in a way that is complimentary to
agile principles and values, and have an inherent understanding of agile
practices - how they work and perhaps even more importantly, why they
Here are some of the important qualities I believe are
needed for someone to be an inspirational leader, whether they are agile
leaders need to have a strong vision. It can be said that a teams
ability to achieve is directly attributable to the clarity of the
vision. What are you trying to achieve and why?
need to have unwavering belief in their vision, giving them the drive,
commitment and determination to overcome all obstacles. Nothing is too
big a set-back. Nothing will stop them from believing in their vision
and striving to achieve it.
Inspirational leaders need to be full of
energy and enthusiasm, in order to share their excitement for their
Inspirational leaders need to be able to
articulate their vision in a way that convinces others it is worth
pursuing. They need to be able to make a compelling case for their
vision and motivate others to follow it.
Ability to listen and respond
unlikely that any significant vision can be achieved by one person on
their own. That's why leaders are needed. Good leaders surround
themselves with excellent people to help them realise their vision.
Inspirational leaders listen to those around them and have an interest
and ability to respond.
vision will be achieved without running into a few problems.
Inspirational leaders not only need the determination to solve them, but
also strong problem solving skills.
There are always many distractions.
Inspirational leaders remain focused on their goals and see things
through to completion.
leaders can see the wood for the trees. They need an inate ability to
cut through the fog and make timely decisions.
leaders, in my experience, are also those that are willing and able to
teach others and be a good coach to the people around them. Apart from
developing their team, this builds trust, confidence and respect, all of
which help people to look up to their leader and make them more likely
to commit to their cause and follow their vision.
Trust and integrity
trust, integrity is at the heart of everything. A leader must be
trustworthy or at some point they will lose support from the people they
Credibility and empathy
also important for inspirational leaders to have experience that others
can look up to, or at least identify with. It's valuable to know that
the person you are following knows what they're doing and can see things
from your perspective.
leaders exude confidence. There's a fine line between confidence and
arrogance. Inspirational leaders have a quiet confidence about them.
Something that silently tells everyone else they are worth following,
because they seem sure themselves. This is all in the body language and
how assertively (not aggressively) they express their opinions.
have charisma. Sometimes that means they are fun to be around. Other
times it just means they leave people around them feeling positive. I'm
not sure if this is really a separate quality in its own right, or what
you get if you have all of the qualities above. One thing's for sure
though - leaders have it, whatever *it* is. This is the management X
to all of these qualities, in an agile environment, leaders must also
understand agile principles and exhibit the same core values, for
instance openness, empowerment, flexibility, teamwork, etc.
And as if all
of that wasn't hard enough, they also need solid experience of agile
methods in practice, and ideally in a wide variety of scenarios in order
to help them to adapt the processes to whatever unique situation they
find themselves in.
That's a big challenge and probably why
some people say leaders are born rather than made - it's a good excuse
for not having to learn all these skills! I'm not so sure - where do I
sign up for the course? :-)