I came across a leadership podcast a few weeks back wherein there was a description of leadership that seems to fit the type of leadership that a ScrumMaster or agile advcocate needs to exude. I lost my notes on which podcast it is for the necessary attribution but the notes that stuck with me contains the following (paraphrased) content:

During a performance show, an orchestrator (conductor) is somebody whom everybody in the group looks up to, following every flick of the wrist for the correct entry into the symphony. The choreographer on the other hand only teaches the vision of the dance, corrects any mistakes during the practice sessions, and then sits back in the audience to see the dance troupe interpret the visions, sometimes in ways that even exceeds what was practiced.

conductor-baton

Image courtesy of freerangestock.com

The choreographer aspect seems to fit what the agile advocate needs to do. This follows the mandate that in an agile team the scrum master is a servant-leader, a person who influences without any direct mandate. For those who finds that hard to comprehend, it is the same type of authority that friends form over their experiences, wherein a select few of the pack is looked upon for inputs on what to do next. That only comes with trust that the “choreographer” knows what they are saying and that they will not lead the pack into ruin.

The only resistance is the inherent inertia that most of the corporate organizations still pine for the command-and-control structure which gives the “feel good feeling” that everything can be boxed into a specific plan. This makes organizations make more open to the idea of putting seasoned managers as conductors of delivery in order to control every aspect and cadence of the team. They are not entirely wrong but the unpredictability of the human mind and real life means they are also not entirely right.

The conductor can still be a person of trust but normally the conductor’s authority is proportional to their perceived reputation. The reputation is a double edged sword as that can be the initial hump that the team needs to overcome to start being comfortable with having the “conductor” as part of the team.