Project Manager vs. Servant Leader Role

In the fourth chapter of the Agile Practice Guide, the discussion focuses on creating an agile environment.

On p. 37 and 38, the role of a project manager is contrasted with the servant leader role.   After I present what the Agile Practice Guide has to say, I want to relate some words of wisdom from one of the foremost agile coaches in the Chicagoland area, Anthony Mersino, from his Vitality Chicago blog.

Although some agile practitioners feel that project managers are not needed because the project teams are, after all, self-organizing, the guide says that pragmatic agile practitioners can add significant value in many situations.   The key is that they need to adjust their mindset to that of a servant leader.   Rather than explicitly coordinating the activities of the team, they foster great collaboration on the team, remove obstacles for the team to function more effectively, and aligning the needs of the stakeholders.

Here are five roles that a project manager does on a traditional project, and how the role of a servant leader contrasts this (taken from a graphic accompanying the following article on Vitality Chicago

  • a driver, the servant leader is an enabler
  • a decision maker, the servant leader is a facilitator
  • a controller, the servant leader is a teacher
  • communication hub, the servant leader is a supporter
  • translator, the servant leader is a protector

If you are looking for resources in how to turn yourself from a project manager to a great scrum master, go to the above article by Anthony Mersino and see the list he has created.

In the next few posts, let’s look at how agile teams are organized.


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