Leadership & Coaching

Leader Defined: The word leader comes from the Indo-European root word ‘leit’; the name for the person who carried the flag in front of an advancing army going into battle and who usually died in the first attack. His sacrifice would alert the rest of the army to the location of the danger ahead.

For those choosing to lead, not much has changed since those days.

“We learn best from our leadership failures”

-Ron Heifetz

Our work in Agile has sharpened our point of views on leadership. In a world full of messy and wicked problems, we believe people who lead must be both agile and adaptive. But we make a few more assertions about what it takes to lead in the world today.


First, leadership is better understood as an activity rather than a set of personal or organisational capacities. Said another way, leading is a choice and an action, not a role or position. Most all significant social change movements began when someone, without authority and working on the margins, raised her hand to lead.


Second, leadership is necessary when logic is not enough. Leading is not about making a better argument or loading people down with more data, models and facts. Leading is working to mobilise people who have not been convinced by your logic and probably have other things to do. So, if you have not engaged your heart with your logic, you will find it virtually impossible to connect with the people you will surely need to make an impact.


Third, the basic currency of leading is getting and holding people’s attention. Getting attention is pretty easy. Holding that attention is another matter.


Fourth, leading calls on the same skills and craft that Agile requires: curiosity, running experiments, deeply listening to people, asking questions, admitting when you do not know the answer and being very good at diagnosing the true nature of the challenge you face. This means that, just like Agile, understanding how to lead can be learned.

What, then, defines leadership?

It is the activity of mobilising people to tackle the toughest problems and do the agile, adaptive work necessary to achieve progress on those messy problems.

If you are doing Agile work, being a scrum master or working on an Agile team, you have already begun building your capacity to lead.

Maybe without knowing it.

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