AGP Ep 19: Ben Melbourne—The art of servant leadership. How to add value by empowering others

by | Feb 7, 2017

Ben Melbourne is the General Manager for ThoughtWorks Brisbane, a global software consultancy with a deep connection to Agile software development and project delivery. Ben shares his journey from being ‘in the trenches’ through to leadership roles and how he smoothed out the transition.


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"Ask yourself: How do I enable other people to be successful?"—Ben Melbourne
"Without giving people open and honest feedback you're doing them a disservice"—Ben Melbourne
“Let people have autonomy but help guide them down the path to find the right outcome for the business as the whole” —Ben Melbourne

Show notes



Topics discussed

  • The benefits of being a leader who has experience ‘in the trenches’t
  • Transitioning into a leadership position gracefully. A focus on lifelong learning.
  • Balancing confidence with humility.
  • Servant leadership: How do I enable others to be successful.
  • When to use your authority to be directive vs when to influence others and bring them on the journey.
  • The role of a leader to add value by bring the broader ‘context’ to discussions. Transparency with this context means that others can understand.
  • The difference between influence and manipulation.
  • Motivation: Autonomy, mastery and purpose (Dan Pink)
  • The role of a leader to allow people to try things their own way and fail, but then step in to prevent catastrophic failures.
  • The importance of giving people timely, specific and genuine feedback.
  • The art of giving feedback. How to have the difficult conversation.
  • The importance of hiring ‘T shaped people’
  • How to mitigate against ‘group-think’
  • Having crucial conversations. How to deal with difficult people and conversations.


  • 27:28 “Lack of humility won’t get you very far”—Ben Melbourne
  • 28:00 “how do I enable other people to be successful?”—Ben Melbourne
  • 30:30 “Let people have the autonomy but help guide them down the path to find the right outcome for the business as the whole” —Ben Melbourne
  • 31:00 “It’s not about trying to convince them to do something you want them to do. It’s about giving them the constraints so they can be successful in their own right.” —Ben Melbourne
  • 41:52 “Giving open and honest feedback in a timely way is the most important way to help people grow and improve”—Ben Melbourne
  • 42:15 “Without giving people open and honest feedback you’re doing them a disservice”—Ben Melbourne
  • 1:00:28 “Always try to hire ‘T-shaped people’ with a deep speciality but also a thin, broad experience.” —Ben Melbourne

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