Servant Leadership Empowers the Team


A servant leader seeks first to serve those who they are leading. What servant leadership means to me, is a simple question to my team members. How can I help you be successful, so we may be successful as a team?

Servant leadership is an excellent match for Agile, because it’s focused on team members, instead of being focused on management authority. In Agile, the team has autonomy. The team decides how the work will get done. This is not to be confused with the team deciding what work to do. In Agile, the customer decides the priority of the work to be done for the project. Either the customer point of contact, or the product owner is the representative of the customer. They determine the priority of the requirements for the project or product that the team works on.

What is great about servant leadership is that the team is able to share with the servant leader what is important for them and what they need to be successful. As an example, if we think about the daily stand up meeting, we can see how the team facilitator or Agile Coach listens for the impediments (barriers or potential risks) identified by the team members. Impediments prevent the team member from doing the work that they are planning to do within the next day. The Agile Coach, or team facilitator, works to remove these impediments or barriers for the team members, thus supporting them as a servant leader! This helps the team to stay focused on the work that they’re doing and on adding value for the customer. This is an example of how servant leadership is a perfect match for Agile.

Likely one of the biggest challenges of using servant leadership in an organization is that the team members and organization may not be used to this leadership style.  Servant leadership is quite different from other leadership styles in that it empowers the team. The leader is there to support the team in the work they’re doing and help them to be successful. In more traditional leadership styles, the leader delegates work to the team members to accomplish the project task. Using servant leadership can be a huge cultural shift for many organizations and even for project teams themselves.

For an Agile project to be successful, the team members need to be empowered to do the work that needs to be done. Servant leadership supports the team and team members to empowered and also helps them to remove barriers or impediment to doing the work which adds value for the customer.

If you’re interested in being more involved in Agile projects or if you are involved in Agile projects and would like to get a certification to show your experience and knowledge, you might consider the PMI-ACP certification. PMO Advisory offers a certification preparation course for this certification exam. What differentiates this certification for many others in Agile is that it requires both experience and knowledge in an Agile approach. It is also a general Agile certification, as opposed to a specific Scrum certification. If you’re looking for something to differentiate you from other project managers, or to bolster your career in project management, this is an excellent certification to consider. For more information please use this link to find out about the next PMI-ACP certification class which I will be teaching:

Also, you may contact me directly if you have any questions about the agile approach servant leadership or the PMI-ACP certification. I look forward to hearing from you and I hope that you continue to apply servant leadership to your Agile projects, to gain the success in the value that it has to offer!

Susan Parente


Susan Parente is an instructor at PMO Advisory, an Associate Professor at Post University, Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University, and a Lecturer at University of Virginia. She is an author, mentor and teacher focused on risk management, traditional and agile project management. Her experience is augmented by her Masters in Engineering Management with a focus in Marketing of Technology from George Washington University, DC, along with a number of professional certifications. Ms. Parente has 20+ years’ experience leading software and business development projects in the private and public sectors, including a decade of experience implementing IT projects for the DoD.