Geeks With Blogs

The Life and Times of a Dev Yes, we're really that weird


Veracity consultants are an interesting group of people. We have some of the best and brightest people working to help our customers deliver great products to their customers.

While there are a lot of consulting shops in the industry, most are not like Veracity Solutions. Many shops simply want to put a body into a chair. They offer cheap hourly full time employee replacements (contractors) instead of people that can actually help their business be successful.

Veracity, on the other hand, really tries to fill the consultant role. Yes, we can pound out code like nobody else, but we can do more than just that, we can help them write the right code for their business. We can help them understand how their teams should function. Ultimately, our goal is that when we leave the team, we leave them in a better place than they were.

Knowing how to help their teams requires a skill that we try to make sure that we all have, and that is the skill of leadership. Almost any Veracity consultant could lead the teams on which they are placed. You really are that good!

Servant Leadership

Since we often have a leadership role with our clients, knowing the best way to lead is important. Many different styles of leadership exist. Some work better than others. The type of leadership that we recommend is called Servant Leadership.

Agile teaches that the team should be self-forming and should have the authority and responsibility to make whatever decisions are necessary to successfully complete the iteration. Note that this philosophy doesn’t have a “leader” that is directing the work of the team. This includes the ScrumMaster. The ScrumMaster’s role is not to direct the team and tell them how to function. The ScrumMaster’s role is to get obstacles out of the way and help the team function. This is different from traditional management.

Perhaps some examples will help to explain.

The Early Years

I have a degree in Business Management. That means, that I’m supposed to manage people, and every management course I took focused on strategies for “managing” people. Few focused on strategies for leading people and exactly none focused on strategies for serving people.

In many ways, my management degree left me unprepared to lead teams of developers. As a result, I learned the hard way. Some of my early blunders are embarrassing, and quite funny.

The first that I’ll relate was managing a team of about 75 customer service representatives. I was young and just out of school. We experienced a significant amount of growth and needed a time tracking tool to track the time of these hourly employees. Being a geek, I ran out and researched this nifty device that would track time AND included a fingerprint reader! They absolutely had to be present to punch their time card, since they’d have to swipe their finger to do it. Biometric security at its finest. Who cares if it takes them 15 minutes to get signed in, spreads diseases, and tells them that we think they’re criminals! Ouch. Those poor people. I’m sure morale was terrible.

Now that I’m older and more mature, I look back on that experience and see that I was being a manager, not a leader and especially not a servant leader. A servant leader would have instead sought ways to track their time and meet the goal while placing as little burden as possible upon the employees. I could have found a system that was tied to their login or tied to their phone, or any number of other options. I should have been helping them accurately input their time so they didn’t have to worry about it.

The second experience was from my early days of Scrum. We were working with a client and were at least using stories, but I didn’t understand the concept of team ownership of those stories. Because of that, planning was mostly me throwing out tasks and then assigning those tasks to team members. Our team was only as good as I was, which limited its success.

I’ve learned quite a bit since those days. I now know that a servant leader understands that their goal is to help the team plan, but leave the planning up to the team. Instead of me coming up with all of the tasks, I should have helped, encouraged, and prodded the team, where necessary, to come up with the tasks and then helped them determine how they were going to accomplish those tasks.

A servant leader rarely will assign tasks to team members. A servant leader will often be the first person to volunteer for the least desirable tasks. Servant leaders lead by example.


I hope that you will examine your leadership style. If you find yourself telling people what to do, your management style is probably dated and needs to change. If you have a list of things that need to be done, don’t tell people to do them. Instead, let team members volunteer for the individual tasks. If you trust them, they will trust you and will not want to let you down.

Technorati Tags: ,
Posted on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 9:39 AM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Servant Leadership

# re: Servant Leadership
Requesting Gravatar...
brilliant. thanks for this.
Left by russell on May 17, 2011 6:47 AM

Your comment:
 (will show your gravatar)

Copyright © Robert May | Powered by: