Manager and Agile leader - commonalities and differences

Manager and Agile leader - commonalities and differences

In the Agile context, the terms "manager" and "leader" often arise. Although they might seem interchangeable and share many similarities, it’s crucial to understand the significant differences in defining these responsibilities.

Manager in Agile Approach

Organizations commonly have managerial positions, but such roles don’t exist within Scrum itself. The primary task of a manager in an organization employing Scrum or another Agile framework is to remove obstacles that hinder the team, provide necessary resources for product delivery, and monitor work progress. The manager must also ensure smooth and effective communication among team members.

A manager focuses on ensuring all processes are executed as planned, taking responsibility for resource management and solving logistical issues. They track work progress, budget utilization, and resources, ensuring goals are met within the set timeframe. Effective communication with various stakeholders, providing regular updates and reports, is also crucial.

Agile Leader

On the other hand, an Agile leader focuses more on people than processes. Their goal is to inspire and motivate the team to work while supporting the individual development of each team member. An Agile leader can be a Scrum Master (leading in improving efficiency through proper Scrum practices), a Product Owner (leading in enhancing product value), or a Developer (leading in innovation).

An Agile leader, seen as a mentor, helps resolve conflicts and build strong internal team relationships. Creating an open environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas and feedback is key. In the role of a Scrum Master, the leader supports the team in applying Agile frameworks, helps develop skills, and promotes a culture of continuous improvement. They organize and facilitate Agile meetings, such as Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning, and Retrospectives, focusing on maximizing efficiency. Acting as a mediator in resolving team conflicts, they help maintain a positive atmosphere and high performance. They promote experimentation and adaptation within the team, crucial for continuous process and product improvement.

Common Points

Despite differences in responsibilities, both the manager and Agile leader strive towards common goals. Goals provide direction and help organize the team’s work. Both the manager and Agile leader should be able to clearly articulate short- and long-term goals and make them a shared task for all team members. This requires not only planning and organizational skills but also flexibility in adapting plans to changing circumstances and the ability to provide constructive feedback.

Motivation forms the foundation of effective teamwork, directly impacting the engagement and productivity of individual team members. An effective leader can recognize individual needs and tailor motivational strategies so that everyone feels appreciated and sees the value of their work.


Although the responsibilities of a manager and Agile leader may overlap, key differences define their unique contributions to the project:

  • Managers focus on structure and processes, while leaders concentrate on team development and dynamics.
  • Managers often have greater decision-making authority regarding resources and directions, while leaders work more through inspiration and motivation.
  • Managers handle system management, while leaders inspire through their behaviors.

Depending on the maturity of the team a Manager or Agile Leader works with, they will employ different techniques and choose different communication methods. For instance, it’s challenging to expect a newly formed team to fully understand the intricacies of the organization’s work. Here, the Leader will take a more decisive role to help the team integrate more effectively and efficiently. As the team gains experience over time, they will require less support, allowing the Agile Leader to focus on shaping the culture and best practices.

Both roles require excellent communication skills, the ability to solve problems quickly, and a deep understanding of Agile philosophy. It’s essential for managers and Agile leaders to work together to create an environment that fosters innovation, continuous learning, and adaptation to changing conditions. Their collaboration is crucial for the success of projects conducted in the spirit of Agile methodology, where the priority is delivering value to the customer through effective teamwork.

In summary, to be a “good” Manager in an Agile environment, one needs to adopt leadership qualities, whereas being a good leader doesn’t require being the manager of the team.