by Steven M. Smith
How do I define leadership?
Leadership is the ability to adapt the setting so that everyone feels empowered to contribute creatively to solving problems.
Leadership is an ability, meaning that a leader has a capacity to do something through talent and skill. Talent is natural ability and skill is proficiency gained through training and experience. Talent certainly helps, but it isn’t required. I know many people whose natural leadership ability was close to zero, but who through training, experience, and most of all, persistence, became great leaders.
Leadership is adaptive, meaning that the leader makes adjustments. A leader who fails to adjust to the territory will lose his or her way. Only fools willingly follow someone who is lost.
Leadership acts on a setting, meaning that a leader adjusts the state of the surroundings and people. A leader carefully observes those states and discerns how to change the setting most effectively.
Leadership empowers, meaning that a leader inspires confidence and self-esteem. That inspiration comes in many flavors. Some leaders inspire by bold talk; others by soft talk; and others by their example. There are many ways to empower.
Leadership acts on people’s feelings, meaning that a leader finds ways to link to people’s instincts or intuition. Leaders help everyone feel empowered, which in many organizations with bad histories is a leap of faith. If a leader can also provide concrete evidence of improvement that helps people feel empowered, wonderful. But the evidence usually comes after the leader’s actions produce the desired results.
Leadership creates contribution, which means that every member gives something. Sometimes that may be sharing an idea; other times that may be holding an idea in reserve and allowing someone else to arrive at, and share, the same idea.
Leadership is about solving problems, which means closing the gap between things as desired and things as perceived. Everyone works on the solution to intermediary problems while keeping in mind the ultimate problem — closing a gap for the client or customer.
Leadership fosters creativity, meaning imaginative use of limited resources. A leader who enables people to use their imagination is a step closer to solving problems more quickly and cheaply.
Leadership is often attributed to a single individual. It’s easier to communicate success stories that way. People like simple stories that contain cause and effect even when they are wrong. But the more complex story reinforces that everyone on a team can be a leader. The most successful teams create chain reactions of leadership. An adaptation triggers long chains of further adaptations that ultimately solve seemingly impossible problems.
I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Jerry (Gerald M.) Weinberg for the ideas behind this post. He epitomizes this definition of leadership. His books, workshops, and teaching have deeply influenced me. My definition for leadership is an adaptation of the one he uses in his book Becoming a Technical Leader, which I highly recommend. You will find Jerry’s writing a source of empowerment.
My name is Bryan Stallings. That’s me with the face paint. I live and work in and around beautiful Seattle, Washington, the destination city for the upcoming Scrum Gathering. The dates are coming up fast, so be sure to circle May 16-18, 2011 on your calendar. The CST/CSC Retreat will be held on May 15th.
During the past seven weeks I’ve learned a lot in my role as event chair. They let me select the hotel, how cool is that? I can’t imagine a more ideal location than the Grand Hyatt Seattle. We’ll be right in the heart of downtown, mere blocks from everything.
Take a moment to reflect on the theme for the Gathering: “Scrum Better – Move the Needle.” That should mean something to every practitioner of Scrum. Let’s get together for this conference to improve our knowledge, capability, and commitment. We’ll consider how we can “Scrum Better,” and learn new methods to help us “Move the Needle” as we perform our roles as practitioners, managers, coaches, and trainers.
I’m excited about the Gathering! We have some great keynote speakers who will participate, and I invite you to get involved by submitting a proposal to speak at this event. Giving a presentation at the Scrum Gathering is a great opportunity to share your knowledge, experience, and passion for Scrum.
What’s the Schedule?
We will be accepting proposals through Monday, March 14, 2011. We understand that this is a tight deadline but, fortunately, the submission process isn’t complicated or lengthy.
What Are We Interested In?
In order to create a Scrum Gathering that promotes space for in-depth discussion as well as a breadth of great ideas and collaborations, we’ve organized the program into a series of tracks. The track names may seem funny to you at first, but they are all inspired by cooking. Kind of odd, huh? Maybe, but, there’s a story behind it. I like to cook and I like good food — Seattle is a good city for that. As we get closer to the Gathering, I’ll tell you more about the cooking-inspired program and what it has to do with the following tracks:
Mise en Place (“Everything in Place”): Getting the Scrum basics in place
A chef always gets ready to cook by assembling the key ingredients prepared and in place. Sessions in this track will be helpful to many of the attendees that are new(ish) to Scrum and cover key essentials that a novice should know. Sessions like, “Five Essential Characteristics of a Product Backlog” belong here.
Get Cooking: Useful recipes for improved success with Scrum
Do you have favorite recipes you always rely on because they almost never fail? For the advanced-beginner to the proficient, we’re looking for tips, tutorials, and good practices. Share what you know about your favorite approaches and techniques. Sessions like, “Sure-Fire Strategies for Building a Better Product Owner” belong here.
Turn Up the Heat: Scrum affects things beyond teams and software
Scrum can be a catalyst that accelerates learning and delivery, but it can also make things a little warm as change occurs. What else happens when Scrum enters the scene? Our roles evolve, we are managed differently, and a whole lot more. Change is pervasive where Scrum finds a home. Sessions like, “How Scrum Resulted in a Revamp the HR Review Process” should find their way here.
Utensils & Gadgets: Helping Scrum teams to shape, form, and finish
Like a team of skilled chefs, a successful Scrum teams finds a few essential “utensils” and “gadgets” that they rely on to shape their success and finish their work well. This track is focused on these types of tools, whether they be complex software solutions, or simple paper and pencil-based techniques. Sessions like, “How Did We Survive Before Post It’s?” or “Mocks and Stubs Can Be Your Friends!” are a good fit for this section.
Knife Skills: Hacks, tinkering, and experimenting
In the kitchen, a trained chef knows how to substitute one available ingredient for something that’s missing or won’t work. In that same vein, hacks force the available material into doing what you need or want. They are clever, and they may break the rules. Some hacks are illegal, and some just make you proud and embarrassed that it worked. Sometimes a hack is the only way to go. Sessions of this nature should be submitted here (unless you hack the database).
Seasonings: Methods for coaching, training, and influencing others
Even when all the key ingredients are there, success isn’t always forthcoming without a sprinkle of a little something extra. These unique ingredients flavor the entire dish and combine in ways that are more powerful than when used alone. The ability to influence through facilitation, coaching, training, and so on are master seasonings because of the power of their influence. How do you find success through a deft and delicate touch? A session like,“This is the Best Training Technique Ever” works well here.
“Big Cheese” Course: Leading organizations that leverage Scrum to deliver value
Leadership continues to have increasing involvement as companies scale their use of Scrum. The sessions in this track provide an opportunity for leaders who have already passed this way before to share those insights with others. Sessions such as, “How Scrum + My Division Beat the Competition” should be submitted here.
What are the Sessions’ Specifics?
Tracks will run in parallel throughout the first two days of the conference. Sessions will be 90 minutes in length.
Perhaps you’ll prepare a Case Study or Experience Report and help your audience identify the key learning points while you tell what happened, or moderate a panel discussion among experienced practitioners Maybe you’ll deliver a tutorial that provides participants with practical knowledge they can use right away, facilitate a Workshop where conference attendees learn from each other, or deliver a compelling talk from cutting edge materials. Do you have other creative and compelling ideas? Please share them with us in your submission.
How Do I Submit a Proposal?
The Scrum Alliance doesn’t yet have its own system for this so we’ve set up a simple submission page that will work. You won’t have a login to access to amend your submission later, so remember to print the submission before you submit it.
I look forward to your attendance and involvement in this Scrum Gathering, and don’t forget to submit a proposal before the March 14th deadline. Feel free to contact me with any questions!