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Seven Key Commitments for a Scrum Master to Be a Conscious Leader

June 9, 2017

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Q. Adams

Have you ever sat on a bus or plane, and rather than offering the vacant seat next to you to others, you hope that no one takes it, so you might have more space. We value our own comfort above the need of others to find a seat. This phenomenon is known as self-deception or “being in the box" as described in the book, Leadership, and Self-Deception. This may lead to mistrust in relationships, an improper work attitude, and an inability to lead the team. A Scrum Master needs to be aware of being self-deceptive and break free from the box to be able to lead the team as an authentic servant leader.

A Scrum Mater has two choices to serve the team, either by being a conscious leader or being an unconscious leader. Unconscious leaders hold on to old methods and patterns, even when it's counterproductive, hence such leaders always see themselves as victims of circumstances. They associate their motivation and success with outside factors. Conversely, conscious leaders have a high degree of self-awareness and they are present in the moment.  

Conscious leadership must not be mistaken as a stage to reach. It's a "state of mind" and one can consciously enter it at any time.

So, how can a Scrum Master achieve the conscious leadership mindset?

And, what do I mean by the commitment to being a conscious leader?

Recently I read a great book by Jin, Diana, and Kaley where the authors describe the 15 commitments of conscious leadership. I picked a few of the items out of their list which resonated with me. Let's explore the commitments of conscious leadership.

1. Commitment to Take Full Responsibility for the Actions and Outcomes

Most of our unhappiness comes from the efforts to change a situation that we perceive as bad. However, conscious leaders know that experiences are never good or bad – those are just the labels we give them. Remember what Oogway said to Shifu in Kungfu Panda, "There is just news. There is no good or bad." When things don't turn out well, unconscious leaders try to blame others and move away from taking responsibility. Conversely, conscious leaders take full responsibility for their actions and outcomes.

2. Commitment to Life-Long Learning by Staying Curious, Rather Than Aiming to Prove a Point

Unconscious leaders miss the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Instead, they act defensively and stubbornly insist that they're right. Conscious leaders, however, know that every experience is a great learning opportunity. Instead of focusing on something/someone to blame, they focus on something to learn.

Conscious Scrum Masters are proficient learners. Remember another great quote from Oogway said in Kungfu Panda: "There is always something more to learn, even for a master."

3. Commitment to Not Resist Any Emotions

There's little room for emotions in the workplace. People are taught to think with their brains only. Unconscious leaders think feelings and emotions distract from work, so they try to restrain them. Just think about the last time you felt uncomfortable about something at work but didn't say anything about it.

Conscious leaders, on the other hand, are committed and possess high emotional intelligence (EI). They know that feelings are a source of wisdom.That's why conscious leaders don't turn off their emotions. They realize that emotions are powerful tools for learning or bringing the team together to overcome challenges. 

4. Commitment to Always Speak and Listen With Respect

It's important to keep a pragmatic perspective toward others. One of the biggest pitfalls of Scrum Masters is they usually don't truly listen; they filter what they hear through their thoughts (like the 'avoiding conflict' filter or the 'I know the solution' filter). One of my earlier articles talks about the key tips for Scrum Masters to become effective listeners.

Another pitfall of Scrum Masters is that in order to show more courage, they compromise with respect. It is important to understand that the Scrum Values don't compete against each other, every value has its own place in Scrum and trading-off one for another can lead to team toxins

5. Commitment to Live a Life of Integrity

Integrity is important to leaders because when they slip up, the entire team is demoralized. If a Scrum Master is unethical or unreliable, it poisons the team as a whole. Having integrity means taking complete responsibility for their actions, walking the talk and expressing feelings with openness, and having the courage to be vulnerable.

6. Commitment to Caring for People

The utmost care a Scrum Master can show for people is by helping them unlock their true potential and achieve greatness. It allows a Scrum Master to see them in a new light.

7. Commitment to Being Grateful for Abundance

Most people assume that all resources are scarce. Conscious leaders, however, appreciate that there is enough abundance in people and their surroundings to allow them to live in the moment.

In Summary:

Conscious leadership describes a state of mind driven by high emotional intelligence, self-awareness, communication, and action. By practicing these seven commitments, a Scrum Master can be a Conscious Leader who inspires positive change and creates impact in the team and the Organization. 

I hope this article gives enough to explore what it takes to serve a Scrum team as a true servant leader. Can you commit to these seven Commitments of Conscious Leadership? Do you see any impediments?

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