Pollyanna on the Leadership track

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Today we focus on the Leadership track. My pick in that track: "Learn different leadership styles with Star Wars Coaches", with Bruno Sbille. I've had the pleasure to see Bruno talk at Agile France, and I can't resist the idea of being "coached by Yoda and Darth Vader".

To give you a broader overview of what this track covers, I interviewed Pollyanna Pixton, co-chair; read on for her thoughts!

Why and how does Leadership matter to you?

When someone first asked me to be a team leader, I said, “Don’t be ridiculous. Leaders just get in the way of us doing real work.” That was an interesting realization!

Eventually, I did become a leader and spend over 20 years moving up the corporate ladder, trying to be a different kind of leader, one that helped people get real work done. Along the way, I discovered some things like collaboration, trust, helping teams take ownership and not taking ownership away from them. And things started to happen. Teams were delivering and enjoying their work. Stuff got done and I didn’t have to monitor any of it.

Someone asked my definition of leadership. My answer:

  • Create a place where people want to be not have to be.
  • Make sure everyone has what they need to succeed.

Simple -- but most "leaders" manage not lead.

My thinking about trust, ownership and collaboration has served me well in the Agile community of practice, where people often struggle with the transition from project manager to product owner. What does leadership mean in this new context? What roles are needed for Agile? That tends to be the question, “what do I do now?”

What do you want attendees to take away from the Leadership track?

In the Leadership Track this year, we wanted to provide proven strategies, tips and tools that people could take away and use after the conference. Things speakers have actually tried, so that they can address what worked, what didn’t, what challenges they faced trying them out and what they did about resolving the difficulties. We had extremely good committee members with leadership experience themselves. We had great conversations around the ideas we found in session submissions. We all learned from the work we did together.

What advice would you give attendees?

Talk to people as much as you can. Find a good question to ask: “What has been your biggest challenge getting agile to work in your team?” or “How did you convince your leaders to try agile?” Something you truly want to know.

Talk to the speakers. The conference says, “Access to the Experts.” Yes, they are there. Seek them out and start a conversation. One good question for a speaker is, “What are you thinking about working on next?” Remember, speakers are just like you, only they have been doing agile just a little bit longer.

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