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Why does a Scrum Master not have any authority in a Scrum team? What is the purpose of that? 

The Scrum Master’s Dance: Navigating Authority & Influence

When it comes to the level of authority in the Agile world, navigating the Scrum Master’s levels of authority and influence can sometimes be a bit of dance.

This is when the question arises, ‘Why doesn’t a Scrum Master possess direct authority in a Scrum team?’ which is often followed by, ‘What is the purpose of that?’

The answers to these questions can be as diverse as there are scenarios surrounding the authority of a Scrum Master.

However, this debate’s essence stretches beyond textbook definitions and enters the realm of understanding authority in its varying team dynamics.

Decoding the Authority Enigma

We all understand that authority is the power to tell somebody what to do, right?

And we all know this notion is deeply embedded in many corporate cultures and organisations.

If we’re talking about directing every detail of work, then yes, a Scrum Master doesn’t wield a high level of authority.

But look a little closer, and you’ll notice layers of influence, guidance, and trust, and these are all potent tools in the hands of a Scrum Master.

The Scrum Master’s Leadership

The leadership role of a Scrum Master is taking on a new paradigm, and I’ve always believed that this role is multifaceted and continues to evolve.

A Scrum Master is present as a guide, a coach, a servant to the team, and a leader.

Within Scrum, leadership is not about dominance but about paving the path for others. The leadership of a Scrum Master is one of inspiration and vision, not of hierarchical power.

Influence Through Trust

The Scrum landscape is intricate, with each role beautifully crafted to serve a purpose. As I see it, the Scrum Master doesn’t have the authority to tell you how to do your job. However, don’t jump to conclusions because a Scrum Master directly influences the team through trust.

So, it’s not about issuing commands or being authoritative but about fostering within the team to build a safe space for shared insights, collaboration, and mutual respect.

Teams grant Scrum Masters a unique type of authority borne out of trust and shared purpose.

Reflection, Not Direction

While the Scrum Master may not have the traditional clout to dictate tasks or issue commands, they play a pivotal role as the team’s mirror.

I can say with certainty that the role of a Scrum Master is to create a place for that team to excel. Their influence stretches beyond task completion but continually nudging the team towards introspection, innovation, and continuous improvement.

Unpacking the Paradox

While the Scrum Master may not dictate the ‘how,’ they undeniably shape the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of the continuous improvement journey within a team.

Their role is a subtle dance of guidance without overshadowing the team members. They are to be challenging without being imposing.

The goal is not for the Scrum Master to hold power but for the entire team to be empowered.

Charting Unexplored Territories

Although we understand that every organisation is a universe unto itself, the foundational essence of authority for a Scrum Master must remain consistent. Their mission isn’t about personal power accumulation but about team empowerment.

Scrum Masters are at the helm, not as commanders but as beacons guiding the team through Scrum and Agile best practices.

If you’ve journeyed with me this far, it’s evident that the Agile and Scrum realms intrigue you.

I encourage you to explore our Agile and Scrum courses to deepen this intrigue and transform it into expertise.

Together, let’s redefine leadership, reshape teams, and revolutionise workflows.

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 https://www.agilesuccess.academy/courses/growing-scrum-masters-advanced

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 https://www.johnmcfadyen.com or connect with John on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmcfadyen/.

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

Hashtags: #AgileLeadership #ThoughtLeadership #AgileTransformation #ScrumMaster

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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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