Back to Shows

PI Planning Therapy

What you'll learn

  • To be a good leader you must be a good servant  - that is true but not the whole thing 
  • Servant leadership is about performance as much as it is  everything else 
  • It's more about your leadership style than your servant leadership style 
  • As a servant leader, your job is to enable and encourage and help the teams strive towards serving the customer, helping the customer to achieve its goals, its objectives
  • As a servant leader, you encourage your teams to reach higher, to experiment with new things, to challenge assumptions   
  • Servant leaders do not command, they enlighten, they are visionary, they get people to think
  • It's a peer-to-peer role
  • It's more like being a parent  
  • You want your team to succeed 
  • It's not about serving a coffee but helping the teams to reach the highest potential 
  • Challenge your scrum masters, your RTEs, leaders in your organization 
  • Bring energy to reach higher


Welcome back to PI Planning Therapy, the therapy we're going to take care of today. We'll just come a little bit closer and let's talk about it.


(musical intro) PI Planning Therapy, where you come for all your help with PI planning! It’s the best therapy you'll ever get. Better than drugs.


The therapy we're going to talk about today is about my Scrum Masters or my RTEs. They seem a little bit passive, and they're always talking about servant leadership. And what that normally means is they’ve basically run-read one line on servant leadership, which is To be a good leader, first you must be a good servant. And yes, that's true, but that's not the whole thing. That's like saying an ice cream is just the stick. There is so much more, and it's really, really important that we talk about what that means.


Servant leadership, if you read Robert Greenleaf’s excellent, excellent essay, is about performance as much as it is everything else. And it's more about the sort of, it's more about your leadership style than it is your servant style. Often I'll see people talking about servant leadership and they'll be going, Hey, I have to be a good servant! So, team, what would you like? Or, would you like ice cream? Well, you don't want to work so hard, or you'd like longer holidays… Fine! We'll make all of that happen.


But fundamentally, who are we here to serve? We're all here to serve the customer. So, as a servant leader, your job is to enable, encourage and really help the team strive towards serving the customer. Serving the customer in terms of helping that customer achieve its goals and its objectives, and that's not so easy. That means we need to constantly be striving to be delivering more value. So we need to get better at what we do.


So if you're a servant leader, you're encouraging the teams to reach higher. You're encouraging the teams to experiment and do new things. You're encouraging the teams to challenge assumptions, their own assumptions, but everybody else's as well. And so, if you want to be a good Scrum Master, you need to be doing those things, and you can do that as a servant leader.


The key trait that I see with servant leaders is that they don't command, they enlighten, and they are visionary and they get people to think: Is this the best we can do? Is this the best process that we have? Could we do better? Could we have less defect? Could we get a better understanding of the features? How can we deliver more value? What different ways could we try and encourage the team to think about those questions, and then support them in those experiments?


It's not a popularity contest to be a servant leader. It's not a subservient role. It's a peer-to-peer encouraging, enabling role. In fact, I would think it's more like being a parent. As a parent, you're trying to set up your child with the skills, the knowledge, the technical capabilities to be as successful in the future as possible, and that's what you're trying to do as a servant leader. It's not about serving the team, bringing them coffee — though you can do that, of course, that's not a problem. I don't drink coffee. So if you're gonna bring me anything, herbal tea is good. So, if you have some time, great! But nonetheless, it's not about serving them. It's about enabling them to reach their highest possible potential in a way that they are growing and they feel engaged, and they understand the grand mission that they're on and they feel rewarded when they reach it.


So, servant Leadership isn't about doing everything the team wants. It's about doing everything you can to enable the team to reach its highest potential, and to realize what that potential is and to reach for it. For me, that's what servant leadership is, and that's what your Scrum Masters should be doing, that's what your RTEs should be doing. 


So don't fall into the trap of that one liner. In fact, I can't even remember if it's actually in the essay — to be a good leader, you have to first be a good servant. That's true. To be a good leader, you have to be able to serve. But that's not all of it. It's not called servant servantship, it’s called servant leadership.


And so challenge your Scrum Masters, challenge your RTEs, challenge the leaders in your organization to encourage and enable and really bring energy to reaching higher, trying to go faster, further, better. To be all they can be. I mean, I'm not a big military guy, but the Marines got that one right. Let's encourage everybody to be everything they can be. So, the product can be everything it can be; so our customers can be everything that they can be. And the people they serve, again, can be everything they can be.


So if you want to be a servant leader, that's what you're looking at. Thank you for coming close and joining me on the couch for PI planning therapy. I won't wait for the tea. I think it'll probably take a little while to get here. I'll just make my own, I can maybe serve myself. But thank you for joining me in this therapy session. I've really enjoyed sitting here with you talking about servant leadership, talking about really what leadership is if you're going to work in that way, and I really think a big part of agile leadership is servant leadership and a growth mindset. So thank you for your time. We'll see you next week on PI planning therapy, and have a lovely week. Make it a lovely week! It's your choice. You're in control. Bye for now.

About the course

Shane Harrison has been working with Rentouch to create a new format "PI Planning Therapy". Shane is the therapist and he will give tips on various problems that have been sent to us by the SAFe community.






1h 22min

Last Updated


Meet your Expert

Peter Pedross

CEO & Founder PEDCO AG, Chief Methodologist Applied SAFe

Creator of the product Applied SAFe. Started to program for money at the age of 14. Ex-professional sportsman with a passion for software and a knack in engineering. 30+ years working experience with 50+ publications. SAFe SPC since 2011, Agile (XP) since 1999. Happy father and married to a wonderful woman.

Meet your Expert

Silvio Wandfluh

Head of Product, SPC5

Silvio is a certified SAFe® Program Consultant and as Head of Product at Rentouch responsible for the innovation of

Meet your Expert

Shane Harrison

Business and Agile Leadership Coach

Shane is a business focused change agent, specialising in enterprise level digital Lean/Agile transformations. More than 17 years consulting experience across a variety of industries from pharma to banking Shane is a specialist when it comes to context and culture-specific transformations.

Meet your Expert

Ian J Franks

SAFe® 5 Program Consultant & RTE

Ian has a deep knowledge of Scrum, Kanban and Scaled Agile, and 30 years’ experience in international IT Transformation Programs. He is a successful PO, SM & RTE and as a Consultant/Trainer he coaches his clients develop a strong Agile Mindset that delivers real change and measurable improvements.


Sign up for a free 14 days trial today

Sign up