How would you approach a malignant leader interfering with an Agile Team? 

Tackling Leadership Challenges in an Agile Landscape ️ 

Navigating the intricacies of Agile, I often encounter a poignant question: How do I handle a leadership figure that seems at odds with an Agile team’s philosophy?  

Especially if they appear “malignant”? 

Pause and Reflect  

Whenever I face such a challenge, I’ve learned not to let my first instinct take over. To do this, I always take time to think about the circumstances and ask myself, “Is it the situation or perhaps just a bad day I’m having?” 🤔 

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of clarity over judgment. So, take however long you may need before taking any action. In fact, I make it a practice to document my observations to help me see things from a clear perspective. Whether it’s pen on paper or a digital note, seeing your thoughts and reactions written out always gives me a clearer perspective. 💡 

Engage in Meaningful Conversations  

After taking stock of the situation, I believe in initiating dialogue. Take the first step to talk about your reaction. 🔍 

Instead of confronting a leader with accusations, I always strive to understand their viewpoint first; for example, ask yourself, “What do they believe they’re trying to accomplish with their approach? And what’s important to them.” 

 The Power of Calm Communication  

Dealing with these delicate issues, in fact, with all issues that can arise in the workplace, I’ve always found value in calm communication. ✨ 

It’s simple yet effective.  

Begin with an observation, something both can agree on, then transition to emotions. Sharing something along the lines of, “This is how I felt”, or, when speaking for the team, “This is how we felt,” bridges calm understanding without casting blame. 

Every Leader Has Potential 

A fundamental belief I hold is that there aren’t any inherently bad leaders.  

I’m sure you’ll beg to differ relating to your experience with leaders. 

But keep in mind that despite their methods, each leader has their rationale.  

So, remember that with leaders and co-workers, it all boils down to smooth collaboration and seeking mutual understanding. 🌟 

Embarking on a Shared Leadership Journey  

Addressing leadership dilemmas isn’t about immediate shifts or forcing perspectives. It’s about opening dialogue, starting meaningful conversations, and moving towards mutual respect and understanding. 🌱 

Over time, as an Agile Coach, I’ve observed that even the most resistant or seemingly malignant leaders can align better with team objectives when approached with patience and understanding. 

Empower Your Leadership Journey: Take the Next Step 

Authentic leadership and profound transformations in teams emerge from challenges such as approaching a perceived malignant leader. Remember, it’s all about being willing to address these issues from a calm and understanding perspective. 

Engage in dialogues, seek understanding, and actively facilitate better team leadership dynamics.  

For Those Keen to Explore Agile Further 

If you’re looking for guidance, insights, or tools to make this journey smoother, consider joining one of my Agile and Scrum courses.  

They’re designed to equip you with practical knowledge and hands-on techniques to address real-world challenges.  

Don’t wait for change. Be the catalyst! 🚀 

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Agile Coaches page.

If you are inspired by the idea of an online apprenticeship for a scrum master, visit

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

For more information on John McFadyen, visit or connect with John on LinkedIn at

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Keywords: David Marque, Stephen Bungay, Agile Leadership, Influential Thought Leaders

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author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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