You hear a lot in Agile circles these days about the declining need for managers. We may not need the managers of yesterday, but make no mistake; we certainly need the leaders of tomorrow.
Leadership has become about creating a healthy environment for high-performing teams to thrive in – whether that’s creating an environment of safety where people can have the confidence to fail, building relationships amongst the individuals in a team, or helping the team not let their fears limit them. Some call it servant leadership, but to me, it’s just leadership, plain-and-simple. This evolving style is so important in a job market where we need to continually ‘re-recruit’ our people throughout their time with our team, as their commitment needs to be earned.
There are some awesome leadership role models outside the business community that we can look to for inspiration.
The ER Doctor
If you’ve spent any time watching ER, Grey’s Anatomy or, more recently, Chicago Med, the leading doctor in the room isn’t barking orders. He or she is asking the nurses and doctors questions, reminding them of the context and goal with each patient, and helping resolve conflicts. He is the source of calm in the chaos, empowering his teams to react quickly and decisively.
The Orchestra Conductor
The conductor isn’t the best expert in the room at any one particular instrument. Instead, he or she focuses on the complete song. It’s not about micromanagement; it’s about empowerment. Think less Whiplash and a little more Mr. Holland’s Opus. He or she knows everyone’s talents, how to let different instruments shine at the right times, and creates the conditions for his or her people to continually improve. This requires spending a lot of time with each individual – getting to know their goals and objectives and embedding the team’s mission into their DNA.
The Newsroom Producer
Check out Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom if you haven’t already – it’s fantastic television. Newsroom producer MacKenize McHale knows her audience inside out and how to cater to them. She can pivot on a dime as news breaks and the broadcast must change to cover the evolving story. She communicates incredibly clearly so that the on-air teams can appear seamless to viewers while receiving and relaying net-new information mid-broadcast.
The NASCAR Pit Crew
I’m not a big NASCAR fan personally – in my view, if the "sport" can’t be helped by a performance-enhancing drug, it’s not a sport – but I’m fascinated by the way their pit crews operate at such high degrees of precision and synchronization in seconds. The pit crew teaches us all about how to work together under tight conditions and in a time box. The crew also teaches us to respect when good enough for this round truly is good enough, and that perfect can sometimes be the enemy. Even better, when you watch the pit crew, there isn’t necessarily one clear leader. Everyone has a unique leadership role to play.
It’s no accident that I ended with the NASCAR example. We all have a role to play in leading. In today’s best teams, everyone is a leader.
How are you going to develop your skills as a leader, formally or informally? Which persona resonates most with you? They all teach us invaluable lessons in leadership. It’s about developing the ability to make thoughtful decisions, to be vulnerable and comfortable being wrong every once in a while, and embracing the privilege and opportunity to help grow the people around you. Be courageous. Step into that opportunity.