Why servant leadership works

Assessing Power in Scrum Team Dynamics

I took a Psychology class so you guys didn’t have to

Zakiy Saputra


References: https://www.cttsonline.com/2020/06/05/the-many-faces-of-leadership/

This article was written for the purpose of individual assignment for PPL CSUI 2021, educate readers on Team Dynamics and Servant Leadership, and why taking external classes out of your major is worth it (but we aren’t going to talk about that one explicitly, duh)


As explained in my previous articles, sometimes software development demands a huge amount of manpower that making it alone was not enough. When working on software alone isn’t enough, teams are created to make it. For a good result, team members need to have good performances and behavior while developing the product, this can be attained by various internal and external factors, such as team dynamics. Good team dynamics will help your team in achieving an effective workflow, relationship, and helps significantly in creating a good final product for your software development.

Team Dynamics

Team dynamics is a phenomenon that describes the behavioral relationships between members of a group. Team dynamics includes several kinds of relationships such as interact, communicate and cooperate with one another. In developing your program, your team dynamics affect what can your team accomplish. Good team dynamics indicates positive behavior between each member of the team which would support good results on your team performances, while bad team dynamics does the otherwise. Below is an example of a bad team dynamic:

Where are you guys?!

In this conversation, nobody seems to be replying to the sender's intention in telling them to attend the project’s scrum meet. Since a scrum meet is an important part of scrum development, we can infer that them having a bad team dynamic results in ignorance with each other and hindering the scrum process in developing their application. Meanwhile, here’s an example of a good team dynamic:

Nice teamwork everyone!

In this conversation, I’m working together with my teammates in reducing bugs, duplicates, and code smells of our program. We managed to reduce 500+ code smells and 150+ bugs into 0 code smells and 10~ish bugs overnight (yes, we had awful team dynamics and are only able to fix our messes perfectly by our last sprint) by working together and communicate with each other. In this conversation, it turns out that Kholish has been trying to separate the duplicates in our projects into components and has been waiting for me to push fixes in code smells to push his commit. After I apologized, he offers to also clean some of the remaining bugs. If our team has a bad dynamic in this scenario, huge chances are Kholish would have overridden my previous commits in cleaning the code smells before asking and waiting for me first, hence destroying my progress. (Finally) having good team dynamics in our team allows us to work better on our tasks, hugely improving our performances from Sprint-1 to Sprint-5!

Improving team dynamics can be done in a variety of ways depending on individuals on your team. Remember, just like teaching students, each student is special and has their own preferred studying method that they themselves might not realize! In this article, I'll mostly talk about what should our Teacher (Scrum Master) do to help bond their students (Dev Team) in the classroom (Scrum).

The Perfect Kind of Leadership: Servant Leadership

“Servant Leadership” is a phrase that is coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them, there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”

“The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“

Since a servant-leader focuses on the well-being of people and the communities to which they belong, their existences will help on pushing positive team dynamics on the developer teams and other actors on the scrum projects. This can be seen in our team progress, as in our experiences, our scrum manager (Kak Anit) tries to push us to be more open towards her and our Product Owner (Kak Darin), offers a solution when the developer team has bad communications by suggesting (actual) daily meetings, and complimenting our progress. Honestly, it’s a bit weird for me to get positive outcomes when our team doesn’t seem to have done much compared to the other teams working on their projects, but I assume that because our team did so bad at the start and how our team doesn't have any chemistry before, it would be better for our Scrum Master to respond in kind gestures since harsh treatment might promote worse team dynamics in the workplace (imagine falling the down the stairs and then having a bucket dumped on your head, that’s awful).

Meeting Everyday Ay~
Just took an all-nighter

In the above picture, we can see that one of the developer team is now close enough with our Scrum Master to admit that he will be sleeping first before fixing the feedbacks on our Sprint Review. In a way of sense, this shows that not only our Scrum Master has succeeded in doing servant leadership to pull the team together, she also succeeded in creating positive team dynamics between the team and herself.

Power in Leadership

Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true.
— Honoré de Balzac

On the leadership psychology course that I took on my 2nd term in University, I learned that a leader has power that can be divided into 2 categories, which are called ‘Formal Power’ and ‘Personal Power’. While Formal Power is based on said person's position in the organization (hence Formal), Informal Power is based on an individual’s unique characteristics, so someone that is only an employee in their workplace might have Informal Power if they fulfill said characteristics! Below is a quick explanation of powers:

Formal Power

Coercive Power

The coercive power base depends on fear of the negative results from failing to comply with the demand of their upper management, for example, threatening to demote, dismiss, or give sanctions towards someone lower in the organization field if they fail to do something said person wants.

Reward Power

The opposite of coercive power is reward power, with which people comply because it produces positive benefits; someone who can distribute rewards others view as valuable will have power over them. For example, giving bonus or promotion for doing their work as asked.

Legitimate Power

In formal groups and organizations, probably the most common access to one or more of the power bases is through legitimate power. It represents the formal authority to control and use organizational resources based on structural position in the organization. For example, doing your work because your boss told you to do so.

Personal Power

Expert Power

Expert power is influence wielded as a result of expertise, special skill, or knowledge. For example, trusting an economist's opinion about investing strategies or trusting a doctor for medical advice because they’re well-informed on the topic.

Referent Power

Referent power is based on identification with a person who has desirable resources or personal traits. If I like, respect, and admire you, you can exercise power over me because I want to please you. Referent power develops out of admiration of another and a desire to be like that person. For example, buying a product advertised by your favorite idol.

In the above picture, we can see a BTS Meal that was advertised by BTS, which is currently endorsed by McDonald's. Because BTS has referent power over a huge number of people who like, respect, and admire them, BTS Meal is highly sought out in the market!

Exercising Power in Servant-Leader Team Dynamics

After studying Leadership Power in Psychology and the Servant-Leader style of leadership, it is easy to conclude why servant leadership is so effective and is used widely nowadays in leading a team. Since servant leadership focuses on the well-being of others, they tend to abandon the traditional kind of power a leadership had (coercive, reward) and push their referent power by building trust and admiration with others. Previous researches have shown that expert and referent power are positively related to employees’ satisfaction with supervision, their organizational commitment, and their performance, while reward and legitimate power are unrelated and coercive power shows otherwise. This might also explain why our Scrum Master took a kind approach to us instead of taking a harsh approach (coercive power). Not only servant leadership, improving team dynamics would also lead toward referent power between each actor in your scrum team!


No context this photo just makes me smile

To promote a good environment and support progress in developing your project, it is important to have good team dynamics in the team. Improving team dynamics can be done in various ways and are different between each group. When maintaining and leading a group, you should consider leading your team by using servant leadership NOT ONLY TO ENSURE THE WORK’S DONE, but also to ensure healthy team dynamics in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if the work is done, if your team dynamics are awful, chances are your team would break apart and the project would collapse sooner or later (especially if this is further regressed by said leader’s ability, such as using coercive power frequently). Help others, help yourself, servant leadership.

After reading this article, I hope you learned about team dynamics and how to be a good leader by implementing servant leadership! Goodbye! (Seeing that this is my last article for PPL CSUI 2021, I’d like to thank everyone who has read my articles up until the last one 😊)

Leadership in Psychological Perspectives Course, University of Indonesia
Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2013). Organizational behavior (15th. ed). New Jersey: Pearson Education.