Is "Team lead" role sign of a bad Scrum?

Last post 08:13 am May 23, 2020
by Joshua Partogi
14 replies
04:55 am February 15, 2017

Many companies have roles like Team lead or Technical lead. The definition is: "A team leader is someone who provides direction, instructions and guidance to a group of individuals, who can also be known as a team, for the purpose of achieving a certain goal".

I don't see a rule against this in the Scrum guide, but I think this leads to one more hierarchy inside the development team.

Do you think that someone that is doing "leading" work inside the scrum team disrupts the Scrum process?



06:49 pm February 15, 2017

From your reading of the Scrum Guide, do you think that having one person "leading" the team's work would be good Scrum? Also, what sort of leadership ought to be provided by the Scrum Master so the team can achieve "a certain goal"?

09:59 am February 16, 2017

Scrum Master is a servant leader. I understand that the development team is responsible for developing the increment. I think this common responsibility and common ownership of the scrum backlog contradicts the idea of Team leader. However, this is not explicit in the scrum guide. Moreover we have different roles in the Scrum Team to ensure the team is self sufficient to deliver the increment. Like the UI expert can contribute for better delivery of the UI aspects, team leader could use his leadership skills to lead the team to make the right decisions.

02:41 pm February 16, 2017


do you think that having one person "leading" the team's work would be good Scrum?

=> Why not... It may depend on the frequency, 'density' and type of leading.

06:19 pm February 16, 2017

In Scrum, no one Development Team member would be responsible for leading the entire teams work, even in one area. The team are self-organizing without sub-roles such as team lead, technical lead, or UI expert. Responsibility is not inferred by any specialisms a team member may have...the Scrum Guide makes it clear that there are no exceptions to this rule.

06:50 am February 20, 2017

Aleksandar, typically, a Team Lead (TL) is not a Scrum role but a management role.  In my experience, TLs oversee a portfolio of projects which may include Scrum, Waterfall, etc projects but they should not influence or interfere with the Scrum project.  They may need to step in if any issues arise, at the Scrum Masters' discretion, for removing blockers.  Of course, some organizations may dictate differently, but in the purist sense, I agree with Ian in his response. 

02:37 pm February 23, 2017

What about the scaled scrum, according to nexus guide representatives from different scrum teams will collaborate to discuss the sprint planning, I think the member who is more proactive and have decision making skill (cross-functional) will be sent to the meeting. It seems to me TL have a role in this type of setups.

06:36 pm February 23, 2017

A team representative should take care that they do actually represent the team, and don't exert a greater influence on decisions than their peers.

03:30 am August 5, 2018

I would like to add my thoughts about WHY we should not have a team leader in the team.

First of all, having a person with leadership skills in the team is not the same as having a team leader. Having a person with leadership skills is good, just like you need people with technical skills and skills for quality assurance.

However, dedicating the responsibility for leading, testing or coding to individual people will equally much remove this responsibility from other people. We need everyone to take part in, and have an interest for, everything that needs to be done.

  • If quality is bad, its the team's responsibility - Not the tester or QA.
  • If coding is not finished, its the team's responsibility - Not the developer.
  • If the team is not working well together, its the team's responsibility - Not the team leader.

In my opinion, having separate roles in the team is completely unnecessary as experts in various areas will provide their value without being dedicated to a role. Instead, allow (and encourage) members to learn from each other and take part in areas they are not experts yet.

Furthermore, being a leader (or having a leader) have very different meaning based on culture. Having a leader could mean (based on your culture)  that you don't have to do anything the leader is not telling you (or forcing you) to do. It also means that you are expected to follow, NOT to take initiative and make suggestions.

In this case, having a leader kills all possibility for self management.

Again, this is only my opinion and I would like to get your feedback and ideas.

02:25 pm August 1, 2019

It seems to me the Scrum Guide is explicit in this, the Scrum team is made up of the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development team. The Development Team is made up of Development Team members who have specialisms but no other role than that of a team member. There is no place for team leadership in Scrum.

06:54 am August 2, 2019


Now you're done being surprised; I once wrote a blog comparing a self organising team to a self steering car. Someone has written the code, assembled the car and instructed it what to do in which situation. In a similar fashion, creating a self organising team requires setting clear boundaries and protecting the team of the outside influences for which the team is not yet ready. I have learned this requires a very specific skillset: someone who is able to look at the team and see what they are capable of, what the next step is and how their development can be helped. Someone who is a good leader in the beginning, and a good coach when the team is more mature, but more importantly, someone who knows when to lead and when to coach. Why wouldn't, especially in the beginning, a team lead be able to fulfill such a role?

07:10 am August 2, 2019

There is no place for team leadership in Scrum.

Might it be the case that every team member has a responsibility to demonstrate leadership in Scrum?

10:30 pm August 6, 2019

Good point Ian! It's all about joint responsibilities to get the job done for clients and stakeholders!

05:41 am May 20, 2020

There are some responsibilities in corporations like in ours, which are/were somewhat bound to the team-lead role. Like releasing logged working hours or approval of vacations or annual appraisals or leadership meetings with other team-leads.

As a former Scrum Master and now Team-Lead I am currently trying to remove this role and its tasks to the benefit of the team. These actions have to be taken but you need special permissions (you see private data, like logged working hours) so not all people of the scrum team are able to do it. How would a scrum team without a team lead approach these tasks.

Any ideas?

Context: Our company switched most teams to the Scrum process but still has the team lead role in all teams, mostly because we were not able to transfer the mentioned tasks to the teams.

08:13 am May 23, 2020

That is interesting when you described the team leader's role. In Scrum we want the whole development team members to have a leader mentality, we want them to be self-directed, self-motivated and inspired. The Scrum Master him/herself as you can read in Scrum Guide is a servant leader, a leader who leads by serving rather than with authority who gives instruction or tell the team what to do. Hopefully the Scrum Master can inspire the team to be self-directed and self-motivated hence we do not need a team leader. If the organisation think they still need a team leader whose role to provide direction, instructions and guidance to a group of individuals, maybe it's a good conversation to have in the company and ask what pre-conceived ideas do they bring to come up with such conclusion.