Adam Brown – Fearless and the Courage to make a difference

Fearless Navy Seal Adam BrownAs a Leadership Coach for individuals and teams it’s important for me to draw from diverse examples of leadership in history; in business, on teams, and even at home in examples of ordinary life. A few of the key examples of agile leadership i’m looking for are courage, humility, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, relationship building, community consciousness or social awareness as well as strategic intellect and expert skill competencies. Regardless of the clients role or industry focus character traits of great leaders do share the above capabilities – and it’s my role to help clients find role models. Agile leaders are not just great practitioners they are great people, so I encourage all learning leaders to diversify their knowledge fields away from just agile or software books.

I’m always seeking new material to recommend and recently had Adam Browns biography “Fearless” keep popping up. At first I completely dismissed it. “oh yeah another hoorah war story; i’ve grown up in the military and been a student of international power & politics, I don’t want to see another GI story for a while” I said to myself. After a few months I surrendered to reading it.

I’m incredibly glad I did. Maybe because of my family history it resonated more with me than it will with you. The honour, brotherhood, purpose, tenderness and supportive community is not always understood nor respected for it’s essence in civilian worlds. However the character of what makes a great man, father and team player are universal and can be admired by all. The backdrop for the majority of Adams life in the book is his time in the Navy; however the amazing catalyst and context that defines him as a well admired man is what he had to overcome even to get listed in the Navy. He was a drug addict, a felon and a drop kick to society, and he had the slimmest of chances to achieve anything in life let alone be awarded a Silver Star.

This book is a biography and yet reads more like a novel at times because some of it is too far fetched to believe. If you are a leader looking for insight on how others overcome adversity or would like insight to what create connection in teams than Adam Browns story is worth a read. It doesn’t tell you how to behave, it shares with you how he behaved. It gives insight to a simple can do attitude that supported Adam through many fall downs. It shows a graciousness for life that many take for granted. It also makes you think how easy business life can be sometimes!

Besides all that, Adam Brown is a very good example of the Servant Leader. I highly recommend taking the time to read. If not about Adam Brown in Fearless then search through history to find people that exemplify Servant Leadership for you. The more you read and experience the pains or gains of these people the better you will lead yourself to great leadership for your teams.

Note: At the time the book was written there was controversy and actions to stop it being published. Although I am not a religious person, I share the theme of thanks to Christian Publishing for putting in the time and money to share the truth.

Coaching Agile Teams – Lyssa Adkins Review and key lessons

Coaching Agile Teams Book CoverLyssa Adkins is a great command & control confessionaholic! Her experience on both sides of the delivery experience and the transformation she went through between the two is what sets her practical teachings apart from a number of coaches who have only ever experienced agile or green fields delivery. That experience and tuition she provides for coaches to ‘navigate their teams’ along the journey is a good reframe for any agilist thinking of becoming a coach.

I’ll endeavor to note some of the lessons and where I’ve tested out the recommendations as part of sharing my learnings.


The book covers two very important themes – the health of the coach and the health of the team – as stories and lessons are told. The fact that she looks at the health of the coach as a key stigma for the team is what makes this book a bit different from the others. In fact in many subjects the two are interdependent in much the same way organic and environment systems are co-dependent on each other. Even though coaching styles do differ I notice that the majority of coaches ‘forget’ to put their health first, and burn energy rather than be a source of energy.


A good example of the parrallels is the lessons Lyssa Adkins provides on Shu Ha Ri;

  • Shu: Follow the rule.
  • Ha: Break the rule.
  • Ri: Be the rule.


Coaches need to know the rules, when to break them and a coach needs to teach the team the same wisdom so that they aren’t blindly going where the blind have gone before, or as Lyssa Adkins says performs “empty rituals”.

" To surpass one’s master, one must first master the rules—fully. Then break
the rules safely. Then create new rules that allow a deeper expression of the
principles behind the rules. The progression rarely follows this three-step
straight path, however. As shown in Figure 4.1, it’s not a linear progression."

Translation = Often great practitioners start coaching with a zealot approach because they are great achievers, they know miracles are possible and forget to listen and learn from the environment and people around them 😉 Often it’s not just a matter of grandstanding. Humility is such an important part of authentic coaching, having the courage to show humility is a good step towards earning respect as a people leader.

Lyssa talks about the key styles of coaching – teaching, coaching, advising – modelling & reaching. She also mentions that those styles are essentially the stages of coaching a team. Interesting terms to use, I quite like her definitions of ‘modelling’ rather than just saying coaches ‘facilitate’. The language she uses to describe a coaches technique or behaviour adds an empathetic layer of accountability to the people we serve.

If you are a scrum master, tech lead, agile manager or an aspiring coach this books is a must read to create a more robust suite of coaching tools.