Why servant leadership is essential 

My name is Sander Dur and I work as a Scrum Master at AgilityMasters.com. You probably haven’t missed it; the last decade working the Agile way had a major up rise. Agile has benefits for both the organization as well as the employees’ private life.

After all, if people go to work happy, productivity goes up. Especially Scrum has been a big part in this change. However, this requires a paradigm shift in the way of thinking. A huge part of which is the way the team is set up and works together. The Scrum Master is the servant leader of the team and will guide the team’s happiness. 

Change comes from within

First thing to do is to see the change. See what has to change for your organization and benefit can come from it. Not only see the change, but feel the change and acknowledge that you are an essential part for the success of the change. If you think you’re changing a bit, that you’re contributing a bit, you’re actually not. Be aware that for the organization to fundamentally change, everyone has to participate fully. I’m not saying the organization has to change in full overnight, but the part that IS changing has adopt the Scrum framework to the full extend. For instance; if there is a Product Owner and a Development team, but still are working for a project manager, guaranteed that success will not be one of the experiences the team has. Appoint the Scrum Master as well, for he/she will be key in forming a well performing team and processes.

Intrinsic motivation and emotion matter

Daniel Pink is the author of the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He argues that the motivation of people is divided into three segments:

  • Autonomy – the way we want to be self-directing
  • Mastery – the urge to get better at a skills
  • Purpose – do something that is important/make in impact

He also argues against the traditional models of motivation by providing rewards or fear of punishment, driven by more extrinsic motivation like money etc. And however the latter works for basic, mechanical tasks, the former goes for the employees who go beyond these basic tasks. So making the assumption that the people in the Scrum team are there because they want to be and are not selected by management to be there, these three categories will help the servant leader to motivate the team. We WANT to be there, instead of being compliant to the traditional way of working just because “that’s the way it has always been”. We WANT to get better at what we do. Because it feels we contribute to the team goal, but also because it is something we want to be good at. We enjoy to it, so we want to master the skills. I may put it a little bluntly like this, but that’s what it comes down to. But also because we want to have a purpose in our job and in our life. 
This is something I can personally relate to very well. A big part of the decision to become a Scrum Master was because I want to make an impact on people, instead of just being someone that provided numbers to managers that don’t really mean anything to me. I never really thought about my intrinsic motivation or that my emotions mattered in my job. But if the is comfortable enough to show their emotions about any matter, the team will be pushed forward greatly. That’s where a huge role for the Scrum Master comes in. Help the team to help themselves.

Servant leadership: key to the evolution of the team

When the team is performing well, it doesn’t mean that they’re “there”. It’s easy to lose track of any performance issues or get back into old habits if you’re not continuously checking and adapting to any changes in technological, organizational or personal challenges. Keeping retrospectives great will ensure the team’s performance will be top notch. Try to keep the retrospectives dynamic. If they become a routine, the urge of continuous progress will be lost. The will rather be seen as a burden, instead of a fun meeting. This can be a change in location (go outside if the weather allows so) or get everyone’s favorite coffee. 

Great things will happen to a team that’s able to help each other rise above their selves. They will be an example for the organization. In their turn, they can be servant leaders for other teams. Realize that you as a Scrum Master can be make a huge impact on the people you work with. Realize that you are key to the evolution of the team. But first, realize that you are the change.