[This topic in German will be part of the upcoming 2nd sipgate book \o/].
We don’t have any middle management at sipgate. In our teams nobody is anybody else’s boss. Hearing this, visitors often assume we’re without leaders. In fact, the opposite is true.
(Disclaimer: We do have a hierarchy. It only has 2 levels but it’s there. Our not-so-called C-level sets strategy and everyone else is trying to execute it.)
The roles of Scrum Master and Product Owner have elements of leadership in them. Product Owners have authority about what is being build. They do not have authority about people, their jobs, how the team builds something or the broader organizational setup.
Because nobody gets to lead solely by the power vested in them by some management title, everybody takes the lead sometime. If something is important to you and you don’t take the lead, there’s a chance nobody will. Fortunately, the issue that’s important enough to take action is a different one for different people. So it distributes nicely.
I’m pretty sure that half my colleagues would be team leads in other companies. They’ve got all the skills you’re looking for: take responsibility, present results in front of 100+ people, give constructive feedback, facilitate discussions and they’re reflected.
Btw, this post isn’t called “Agile Leadership” for a reason. In my experience, when managers talk about “Agile Leadership”, they babble about “empowerment” while keeping the existing hierarchy and its reporting structure as it is. Yeah, right. Wash me but don’t make me wet, much?
And what do we get from having a flat hierarchy? Everybody takes responsibility. We can take decisions fast. We don’t waste time on political games. Instead we can add value.