This is the third article proper in a series introduced with It’s time to reclaim Servant Leadership. We’re looking at how, in the practical context of Lean-Agile transformation, we take Servant Leadership beyond “serve the team” or “unblock all the things and get out of the way”. Each post corresponds to one of the strategies of our white paper 6+1 Essential strategies for successful Lean-Agile transformation. Get your copy now!
Watch an effective servant-leader, and it’s likely you’ll see someone doing a lot of what looks very much like “serving the team”, not to mention “unblocking all the things”, and even “getting out of the way”. Am I suggesting that these are bad things? Of course not, but don’t confuse the activity with its intent!
It is unfortunate that “serving the team” has come in recent years almost to define Servant Leadership, especially in Agile circles where it has come to be associated with the highly team-focussed role of Scrum Master. The problem here is that seeing service to the team as the pinnacle opens us up to the significant risk of slipping back into serving the process, serving the product, or serving the technology, sitting in our personal comfort zone, resting on our skills, hardly leading at all.
It is much healthier to see service to the team not as the pinnacle but as the platform. To Greenleaf (Servant Leadership’s reference and inspiration), service was a prerequisite, the source of leadership legitimacy, the manifestation of purpose, and the driver of transformation. Through service – to the team, by the team, and by teams in combination – we help the organisation continue to become what it needs to become. Now that’s some serious leadership!