Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Overcast Listen on Pocket Casts Listen on Spotify Download RSS

#37: Servant Leadership, Not Spineless Leadership with Brad Swanson

March 01, 2023     32 minutes

Brad Swanson joins Brian to explore the concept of servant leadership and share actionable takeaways to help you lead with compassion and empathy.


In this episode of the Agile Mentors podcast, Brad Swanson joins Brian to discuss the concept of servant leadership and how it can be applied in an Agile environment.

Learn how to create strong personal connections with your team members, the power of asking powerful questions to foster collaboration, and how to be more assertive as a leader while remaining flexible about the process.

Listen in as Brad shares three practical ways that listeners can cultivate a servant leadership mindset and build a positive and productive work environment.

Listen Now to discover:

[01:48] - Brian introduces Brad Swanson, who has the trifecta of certifications with Scrum Alliance: CST, CEC, and CTC.
[02:54] - Brad shares his belief that servant leadership involves prioritizing the needs of the team while cultivating a culture of trust and collaboration.
[04:43] - Since the 1970s, the servant leadership concept introduced by Robert K. Greenleaf has involved empowering team members rather than seeing them as subordinates.
[07:48] - Brian shares his experience playing football and how it relates to management styles, highlighting that a calm and empowering approach can be more impactful than an authoritative one.
[09:55] - Brad shares the idea that effective leadership involves the ability to balance and leverage multiple power styles and shares the book "Leadership Agility" by Bill Joiner and Steven Josephs, which emphasizes the importance of situational leadership.
[13:30] - Brad shares his perspective on the shift in the last version of the Scrum Guide from using the term "servant leadership" to "true leadership" and why he prefers the term situational leadership.
[15:05] - Brian acknowledges that people have a natural predisposition towards being either assertive or accommodating and how stepping outside of one's comfort zone can lead to both personal growth and an expansion of your skill set.
[16:05:] - Brad suggests there is a difference between being assertive and directive.
[19:38:] - The effectiveness of asking powerful questions to invite collaboration and reach a mutual goal.
[20:17] - The key to being more assertive as a leader without attacking the individual (and remaining flexible about the process).
[21:55] - Brad shares three ways listeners can implement a servant leadership mentality.
[23:35] - Brian shares how to use a notebook to process your thoughts and ideas while giving others a chance to speak up.
[24:38] - Brad shares why listening is a skill that requires frequent practice.
[25:15] - Why it’s a good idea to keep your team in the loop about the changes you are trying to make in your leadership style.
[26:13] - Why being open and transparent about your efforts to improve can help create a learning environment where improvement is both expected and accepted.
[27:05] - Why creating strong personal relationships with the people you are leading is crucial to effective leadership and developing the team's skills.
[29:05] - Listeners of the Agile Mentor’s Podcast can get a 10% discount on the Certified Agile Leadership class Brad has coming up on March 27th by using promo code friend10. Find out more by visiting Agility 11.
[30:34] - Join the Agile Mentors Community to continue the discussion. You can get a free 12-month membership into the community by taking a class with Mountain Goat Software.

References and resources mentioned in the show:

What is Servant Leadership?
"Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness"
"Leadership Agility"
Agility 11
Certified Agile Leadership - CAL Essentials & Organizations with Brad Beginning March 27, 2023 - Promo Code: friend10
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule
Scrum Alliance
Join the Agile Mentors Community
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Want to get involved?

This show is designed for you, and we’d love your input.

  • Enjoyed what you heard today? Please leave a rating and a review. It really helps, and we read every single one.
  • Got an agile subject you’d like us to discuss or a question that needs an answer? Share your thoughts with us at

This episode’s presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He’s passionate about making a difference in people’s day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Brad Swanson, Founder and Principal Coach and Trainer at Agility 11 helps organizations achieve sustainable success through Lean and Agile principles. With extensive experience as a trusted advisor to executives and organizations worldwide, Brad holds certifications as a Leadership Agility 360 Coach, Agile Leadership Educator, Scrum Trainer, Enterprise Coach, Professional in Agile Coaching, and LeSS Practitioner.