Agile Projects and High Achieving Leaders

Agile projects require high achieving leaders. A successful agile project requires all roles and members to be high achieving leaders.

A leader is not just a person who holds a leadership title.

A leader is a person who is able to influence. Dr. John Maxwell, who was declared the world’s most influential leadership expert in 2014 by Inc. magazine, defines leadership as influence, nothing more, nothing less.

Hence, a fresher in a project team can also be a leader by influencing the team with his or her ideas. It is not enough to have ideas though. One should be able to influence others with their ideas.

So, how can agile projects be improved through high achieving leadership?

Let us look at the importance of having high achieving leaders all the roles in an agile project – Scrum team members, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner.

Scrum Team Members

As part of the Scrum team, each team member is expected to self-organize and take collective ownership of the Sprint goal and Sprint Backlog. Their goal is to deliver the sprint.

High achieving leader Scrum team members will lead themselves by stepping up and starting their work early enough so that they finish well on time. And when other team members face roadblocks, they build emotional bank accounts with other team members by stepping up and helping them in overcoming their roadblocks. They do this even if the other person has not helped them before. This emotional bank account is critical in being part of a self-organizing team.

In a self-organizing team, team members should be able to hold each other accountable for their deliverables. It is much easier to hold others accountable if you have first created a positive emotional bank account with them, and are a high achieving leader.

The Scrum Master

A Scrum Master fully understands the mechanisms that drive high productivity, and is able to expand Scrum in the organization if required.

Since the Scrum Master is not the manager of the team, he has no authority that a title brings.

As a leader who cannot use the authority of a title to drive results in the team, the Scrum Master will be more successful by being a high achieving leader.

As a high achieving leader, he will will lead by influencing, inspiring, supporting, and encouraging team members. He will spend one on one time with team members, coaches and mentors them, and most importantly builds the self-organizing culture in the team. A high achieving Scrum Master leads others, and also builds other leaders.

The Product Owner

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing return on investment (ROI) by identifying product features, translating these into a prioritized list, deciding which should be at the top of the list for the next Sprint, and continually re-prioritizing and refining the list. One one side the Product Owner negotiates with the business of the client, and on the other side negotiates with the Scrum Master and Scrum Team. A high achieving Product Owner is able to assertively negotiate with both groups while maintaining good working relationships with both. This again requires the leadership and influencing skills of a high achieving leader.


In conclusion, for the success of agile projects, it is critical that members of all the roles be high achieving leaders so that they can do their roles well, and hence get the best returns for the agile team’s work, and at the same time increase the value they provide to their organization.

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Binod Maliel