“True leaders” are for cults; Scrum Masters should continue prioritising servant-leadership and leave the labeling to others

Two men talking to each other in the cockpit of a rocket ship, from Paramount Pictures’ 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact
Two men talking to each other in the cockpit of a rocket ship, from Paramount Pictures’ 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact
Still from Star Trek: First Contact in which two characters discard pompous labels to focus on getting things done

In describing the Scrum Master, the 2020 Scrum Guide swaps out the term “servant-leader” for the label “true leader”. I think Scrum Masters should stay clear of assigning themselves that new moniker and keep aspiring to servant-leadership. Here’s why.

Small change, big word

The Scrum Guide’s recently-released 2020 edition uses fewer words than its 2017 predecessor. At the same time, it’s become more broadly applicable and less prescriptive. No mean feat.

There is, however, one crucial term that I wish had survived this year’s trimming: the Scrum Master’s servant-leadership has been replaced by a far less powerful alternative.

The 2017 edition simply read, “The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team.” In the 2020 edition of the guide, Scrum Masters are now rebranded as “true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization.”

Who speaks like that?

As I understood from Scrum Guide co-author Jeff Sutherland’s release interview, that change to “true leader” is part of an effort to give Scrum Masters a description that reduces people’s inclination to see them as glorified note-takers. …


Graphic of many lines of ‘shaking hands’ emoji
Graphic of many lines of ‘shaking hands’ emoji

Having previously been exposed to practices of agility through your work, on the pandemic-induced level playing field of distributed collaboration, you have a key advantage: as a PO, developer, analyst, tester, you already know that change is a given, and you’ve got the tools to iteratively deal with it. Help others do so, too.

🗣 This article is a companion piece to my conference talk Facilitating Intentional Agility from Home, delivered at Agile Tour Vilnius 2020.

Stepping up to the plate

Even if you’re the biggest anti-agilist on your team, or if you think that all meetings are a waste of time — as long as you’ve had any experience with regular inspection and adaptation: this is it. …


Screenshot of a computer desktop, with a numbered set of application windows to illustrate the facilitator’s POV of a webinar
Screenshot of a computer desktop, with a numbered set of application windows to illustrate the facilitator’s POV of a webinar
The facilitator’s POV of a live webinar

What does a live webinar look like from the perspective of the facilitator?

Hosting half a dozen different webinars in rapid succession has allowed me to inspect and adapt my set-up for facilitating live events. I’ve found that the smooth hosting of live webinars benefits greatly from well-arranged desktop space. I’ll show you what works for me and I’ll share my top advice so you can benefit from both in your own webinars and meetups.

Workshops vs webinars

While it’s almost just as easy to set up a webinar as it is to set up a ‘regular’ online meeting - sometimes with the same application - they’re different beasts and require different preparation. Webinars prioritise knowledge transfer over peer-to-peer participation. Interaction is tightly regulated. Accordingly, there’s a greater pressure on the presenter(s) to deliver a presentation on time and with few distractions. …

About

Thomas van Zuijlen

Facilitator & Scrum Master

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