Marcos Garrido gave us a fine summary of leadership lessons found in the book Extreme Ownership: how U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and win. These lessons are extremely important for any agile team:
The leader is responsible for the team’s success or failure. Leaders who blame the team for failure are weak or cowards. A true leader assumes responsibility and helps the team redesign its processes in order not to repeat the same mistakes.
The leader’s responsibility for the team is non-negotiable and must come before any individual relationships with other people. Anyone who constantly fails must be quickly removed out of respect for the team itself. Leaders who react to an error by blaming the team immediately pass on this behavior to those being lead, creating an environment of mistrust.
Leadership is the most important factor in any team. There are no bad teams, just badly lead teams.
SEALs were doing training which consisted of building a boat and getting it across a river. Boat 2 came first in every round. Boat 6 came in last, every time. The soldiers in Boat 6 didn’t work as a team and the leader blamed them for the failures. The instructors decided to swap the leaders of Boats 2 and 6. The next round, these two boats came in neck-and-neck. The bad leader learned from the winning team, and the bad team learned from the exceptional leader. No teams are all bad. Teams which have already achieved high performance won’t let bad leaders get in the way of their work. Here, self-organization does work.
If you don’t understand the reason for an initiative, you have two choices: criticize or ask why. High-performance teams always look for the why’s. Mediocre performance teams not only fail to understand the reasons but criticize the initiative and ignore their responsibility to understand what’s behind the company’s initiatives. High-performance leaders anticipate this movement within the team.
What about you, as manager, product owner, scrum master, developer, have you been looking for the why’s? Your mission as a leader is to make sure everyone’s rowing in the same direction, thus conquering any industry, in any market, over any competitors in any era!