Adventures in Agile – The One About The Queen With No Heart

  Queen of Hearts 2

Who’s been painting my roses red?

WHO’S BEEN PAINTING MY ROSES RED?

Who dares to taint

With vulgar paint

The royal flower bed?

For painting my roses red

Someone will lose his head.

Once upon a time there was a girl who was smart, who got things done. She was single minded in her pursuit of the results. She was focused. She seemed to have a perfect life and all the things she could ever want. But the higher up the corporate ladder she climbed, the more self-important she became and the lonelier and unhappier she was.

She was a brittle, one dimensional, self-centered monarch and nobody liked her. Like Lewis Carrolls character  from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that he pictured as a ‘blind fury’ she was quick to decree sentences at the slightest offense. She was the Queen of Hearts She was me some years ago – and she had no heart

I have been on my own road to Damascus. When Saul became the Apostle Paul, he said don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others, be humble and think of others as better than yourself.

Paul was an Agile guy.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a leader and I love this example of the agile leadership heart set. Picture a rough country road leading through the wilderness to a river where a dozen soldiers are working hard to build a bridge with insufficient resources and manpower. It’s 1776 and the Revolutionary War is underway. An impressive looking man approaching on a fine stallion and asking the weary workers, “You don’t have enough men for the job, do you?” In reply, the lieutenant in charge states, “No, the men will need a lot more help if we are to finish the bridge on time.” “I see,” replies the man from his horse. “Why aren’t you helping the men?  I notice you’re just standing back watching them work.” “That, sir, is because I am an officer!” snaps the lieutenant. “I lead, I don’t do.” “Indeed,” says the mounted man. At this point he dismounts his horse, rolls up his sleeves and works under the hot sun with the men for hours. ‘Upon completion he remounts his horse and says to the lieutenant, “The next time you have too much work and not enough men, the next time you are too important or high ranking or proud to work, send for the commander-in chief and I will come again.” The distinguished man was General George Washington. The impression he left for servant leadership is timeless. And if you think of all the great inspirational leaders they are compassionate and selfless. They put the needs of the people who they serve ahead of themselves. Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela…. They inspire you to follow Agile leadership is the ability to internally motivate people, through trust, to accomplish the teams higher purpose, goals and objectives.  The Agile leader is defined by security, integrity, selflessness, and compassion. As with command control, without these traits, followership is typically defined by necessity, external controls, or maybe fear, which only reduces the potential of both leader and follower. I am reminded of a function I went to a few years ago, I was excited because this was the first time I had ever been invited to an ‘executive’ event and the senior management team were going to be there.  After the speeches the executive huddled around in a closed circle only talking to each other, they dressed exactly the same and laughing at the same jokes, comparing sports cars and the best restaurants. They were much smaller than I thought they would be and I remember thinking – none of you are interested in people that work for you.   And I thought your not worthy of my followship. In Simon Sineks eloquent Why Leaders Eat Last he describes those leaders who aim to raise their own status simply so they can enjoy the perks themselves without fulfilling their responsibilities as leaders. While they may achieve alpha status and rise in the ranks, possess talents and strengths that could earmark them for alpha status, they only become leaders when they accept the responsibility to protect those in their care. Selfish and power hungry, intoxicated by the chemicals, they can forget that their responsibility as a leader is to their people. Sadly this describes many senior leadership teams in traditional organisations. The ‘people’ leader in such organisations stands out because this executive is liked by the people, and is often least popular with his or her peers. Leaders are the ones willing to look out for those to the left of them and those to the right of them. Life requires leadership. What is yours? What would your family and your team say about you? Perhaps the most important question is, what defines your character that communicates your value of people? The answer to that question is essential in your character and Agile leadership stand. It will determine the level of ‘motivated trust’ that people will give you in followership. As Oswald Sanders states: “True greatness, true leadership, is achieved not by reducing men to one’s service but in giving oneself in selfless service to them.”

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4 thoughts on “Adventures in Agile – The One About The Queen With No Heart

  1. Great.

    My only criticism would be this – I kept reading ‘agile leader’ and thinking – why? It’s a beautiful piece about leadership. Including the agile component only complicates the message.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Geoff

      I think its because I’m immersed in an agile transformation so have agile leadership top of mind. I think you right though. It can stand on its own without it

      Like

  2. Hi Vanessa,
    Thank you for writing this beautiful story – I really love your storytelling style. I also truly believe in the values of agile leadership and have followed them in my own experience as a manager. My learning has been however, that people are not always open to appreciate such leadership style. Maybe it’s about organizational culture, team maturity, and perhaps also about national specifics…

    Like

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