Presenter: Deborah Hartmann Preuss

Objective(s) of the session:

  • Who is this for? Any team member, leader, or client whose team is unhappy, stuck or not yet delivering its very best. Suitable for users of any process, not just Scrum or XP, as it starts from where you are.
  • Why? Your team is limping, or in conflict, or perhaps just complacent. You’ve tried approaches that show promise, but they don’t deliver the smooth synergy you seek. Yet, your gut tells you it’s possible.
  • What? Learn how to adjust your leadership style and set up a learning culture to help your teams to grow into shared ownership & leadership, for greater impact, innovation and job satisfaction. I call this ‘Creating Leaderful Teams’.


Too often we shift to a process that promises improvement - but remain limited by old mental models; and the expected performance boost doesn't materialise. I think of this as “If you keep doing what you did, you’ll keep getting what you got.” While we carefully train teams in the Agile practices, we sometimes neglect to prepare the team's leaders to help the team grow into their self-organization, an important role. The resulting dissonance between an Agile team and traditional-thinking leaders can cause confusion and waste and quietly limit the team's growth and effectiveness.

The days of micromanagement, absentee leaders or "make it so" must end - but with what are they to be replaced? I’ll challenge traditional mental models of leadership with what writers like Joseph Raelin and Harrison Owen are saying about Leaderful Teams; look at why these new models are helpful; and introduce some thinking tools you can experiment with. The bibliography will help you follow up at work, using ideas that challenge you or pique your imagination.

This lecture invites listeners to put aside their assumptions about what constitutes good leadership, and to listen to what may be strange-sounding ideas. I use words and images to present mental models that help to grow and and energize self-organizing teams. These models spring primarily from the writings of Harrison Owen ("Wave Rider" / Open Space in business), Joseph Raelin ("Creating Leaderful Organizations" / fourfold model of self-organization), and thought leaders in the coaching discipline (Ontological Coaching). I also mention the McCarthys' "The Core Protocols", Avery's "Responsibility Process", and double-loop learning (Agile retrospectives).

Format and length: 60 mins Lecture format. Presents a lot of material to reframe traditional ideas about leadership and get you thinking about how you work and what to try next to help your team flourish. Followed by Q&A if time permits.

Intended audience and prerequisites:

Accessible to anyone working in a team environment, or working with a team (product owner, for example) and having influence on the team. Note: the "team" could be a management team, a tech-writing team.