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Hey Scrum Master! Are you Creating Enough Synergy? The Habit of Self-Organizing Scrum Teams

July 12, 2019

Who wouldn't want to achieve awesomeness at work? Great Scrum Masters help make this a reality.

The world is changing more rapidly than ever, bringing with it more unknowns than known. And without strong leaders to guide our teams through this time of complexity and uncertainty, we won't fare very well at all.

But I can let you all in on a little secret: The key to enduring success in leadership is the ability to stay nimble and to "Leadershift," as John C. Maxwell explains in his book by the same name.

You may also like a blog from my friend and fellow PST Christiaan Verwijs: What Makes a Scrum Master Successful? Insights From 30 of the Best .

This article will take you through this concept as well as Liz Wiseman's "Multipliers," an equally essential leadership skillset.

As we know, a Scrum Master is a Servant Leader who serves not only the development team and product owner but the organization as a whole as well. We will explore how a Scrum Master can embrace this concept of Leadershift and help the Scrum team both create more synergy and become self-organizing.

What is synergy?

Synergy means a situation where the contributions of many add up to a total that exceeds the combined contribution of the individuals. 

Each one of us sees the world differently. One can leverage the power of synergy by practicing the Scrum Values of openness and respect. 

When a Development Team synergizes, they genuinely listen to each other with empathy, put themselves in each other's shoes, and try to tackle a shared challenge.

Let's take a closer look at a few of the personas of Scrum Master as Leader and how a Scrum Master can use Multipliers to Leadershift in order to help people and teams to achieve greatness.

Diminisher vs. Multiplier

A Diminisher is generally a smart person, typically focused on their own intelligence, and who often stifles ideas from their team, which leads to lowering the team morale and motivation. A Diminisher also micromanages the team to the point that they become wholly dependent on him/her. 

 Multipliers, on the other hand, do the opposite: They embrace the team's collective wisdom and increase the morale on the team. 

A Scrum Master can start being a Multiplier by following three key practices:

  1. First, create an environment of openness within which diverse perspectives are welcome and ensure team members respect each other for their different abilities and are able to celebrate differences

  2. Second, encourage bottom-up knowledge creation to embrace collective intelligence and ensure there is top-down support from the management
  3. Third, hold the team accountable for their actions and ensure they have access to the required resources to become successful

Great Scrum Masters bring out the best in their team, rather than seeking to shine themselves. 

Tyrant vs. Liberator

Tyrants create a tense atmosphere by throwing their weight around, fingerpointing, finding mistakes, and blaming people. However, there is a counterbalance to the Tyrant personality: the Liberator.

 A Scrum Master as a Liberator help to create built-in instability, a positive tension in which people want to rise up and give their best in an effort to make something great and achieve awesomeness. 

You can start being a Liberator by following these three practices:

  1. First, take a step back and let the team self-organize rather than frequently offering help or interfering with the team's self-organization.

  2. Second, encourage the team to give their best by challenging their skills and give their best.

  3. Third, ensure there is psychological safety; work with leadership and management to create a safe environment within which people feel it is okay to make mistakes and learn from them.

In order to make this shift from soloist to a conductor, the Scrum Master needs to understand the people around him/her. Just like a conductor, the Scrum Master should be focussed on helping others shine.

The key to embracing a growth mindset is to have a teachable spirit. Each day provides opportunities to learn and grow.

 To be a great Scrum Master, one needs to make the mindset shift from Soloist to Conductor. 

Authoritarian vs. Influencer 

John C Maxwell defines leadership as an influence in his various books; a Scrum Master's key tool is also leading by influence. So, where does this influence come from?

Well, influence doesn't come from the position you hold in the company or the team as a Scrum Master. It comes with the Moral Authority that a Scrum Master lives by daily

So, what are the qualities inherent to this moral authority?

Integrity: The ability to align your actions with your words and live your values consistently. This makes you dependable and trustworthy in the eyes of your team.

Courage: Acting with courage allows not just the Scrum Master but also the people around you to reach their fullest potential.

Combining Courage with Integrity, you'll be a Scrum Master team with great influence.

 Great leaders make the shift from climbing up the ladder, through teaching, mentoring and coaching, to building ladders for others to climb. 


The best Leaders inspect and adapt through transparency and embrace empiricism; they Leadershift. That is, they make leadership changes that boost their own and the organization's growth.

Further reading

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