Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Leaders and followers

Generals move pins on a map, ... but the front line soldiers have to get the job done
General Eisenhower

Sponsors, stakeholders,and in many situations project managers move the pins. Cost account and work package leaders, and, in the agile domain, team leaders are among the front liners that get the job done.

Leadership is always one of those things on the talking agenda about small team dynamics, and, of course, small teams practicing agile methods.  In a recent discussion, I got this explanation:

Leadership and leaders in small team situations:
1) PROACTIVE 
2) APPRECIATIVE WHENEVER NEEDED. 
3) ABILITY TO KEEP COOL IN TOUGH SITUATIONS AND THINK OUT OF BOX 
4) KEEP THE TEAM BONDED TOGETHER 
5) BUILD A TEAM THAT IS MOTIVATED AND [SIC] TRUST and SUPPORT EACH OTHER 
6) MAKES TEAM MEMBERS BELIEVE THAT NOT ONLY HIGH INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTION BUT COLLABORATION WILL BE AWARDED. 
7) TRANSPARENCY WITH TEAM MEMBERS. 

"Ability to keep cool..." .... I like that one, and also "Makes the team members believe ..."

Although the person who wrote the points (above) was not thinking in terms of the traditional "4-E's" of leadership, it's pretty easy to see how they fit:
  • Envision: be proactive; look ahead; be confident of the objective
  • Enable: keep the team bonded; we're not really going anywhere if we don't go together
  • Energize: and motivate with trust
  • Empower: with transparency.  Make it obvious and above board, not Machiavellian

Of course one of the ideas in current thinking and theory is the 'self organizing team' and 'rotational leadership'. To the former, I say: works sometimes. The latter, I say: almost never works as envisioned.

In the military, although bureaucratic at the headquarters level, small teams are very agile in the sense of "planning is everything; plans are nothing" (Eisenhower), but there's no nonsense about who's in charge. There can be to question or argument about command authority.

On the other hand, both schemes (rotation and fixed command) somewhat deny the obvious: there are natural leaders and there are natural followers. Leader/followers don't change roles easily, and a team really doesn't work until these dominance stresses work their way through.

In the end, Mother Nature will have her way.






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