Understanding Leadership in Agile Software Development Teams: Who and How?

Weichbrodt, Johann, Kropp, Martin, Biddle, Robert, Gregory, Peggy orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7891-6666, Anslow, Craig, Buhler, Ursina, Mateescu, Magdalena and Meier, Andreas (2022) Understanding Leadership in Agile Software Development Teams: Who and How? In: Agile Processes in Software Engineering and Extreme Programming: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Agile Software Development, XP 2022. LNBIP 445 . Springer, pp. 91-113.

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Official URL: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-08169-9


The principles in the Agile Manifesto, the Scrum Guide and most other approaches to agile software development emphasize self-organizing teams, but rarely address issues of leadership. In this paper we report on a study of the nature of different aspects of leadership in agile teams. We used an established model of leadership, distinguishing transactional and transformational styles, and asked IT professionals a set of questions about the leadership they experience, both
from direct supervisors (hierarchical leadership) and from the team itself (shared leadership). We determined correlation measures of these four types of leadership with the extent of agility in the whole organization. Our results show that agility
is indeed related to the transformational style, but that the transactional style also plays a part, especially as shared leadership. Furthermore, even in highly agile software development, leadership by direct supervisors still plays an important
role. We propose that, as software development becomes more agile, the transactional aspects of leadership may shift away from the leadership dyad between supervisor and employee into the agile team, while transformational
leadership is important for both the team and supervisors. We discuss our results in light of applications for both research and practice.

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