Pacesetting is a leadership style based on the premise that the leader’s manner of doing things is best. While the intentions may be noble (getting the project done) it’s a form of ego and can border on recklessness. Often times the individual doesn’t even realize that he/she is exhibiting classic signs of this leadership style.
First and foremost, we must recognize that agile development can provide a wealth of opportunities to act as a pacesetter. Consider the effect of one week iterations: given the right circumstances, at the end of every week there’s an opportunity to be a hero – to ensure that the team makes the weekly commitment goal. Another problem is that immature product owners can take advantage of pacesetters, pressuring them to add little features, and with agile’s emphasis on collaboration, there is often no way of telling (e.g. no documentation and change control) that the pacesetter is allowing micro bursts of scope creep. The technique of pair programming provides another prime opportunity for the pacesetter to be the center of gravity for getting things done, leading (or pushing) the pairing partner. Self selecting stories from the backlog can easily turn into a game where the pacesetter assigns him/herself to an inordinate number of stories early in the sprint – effectively marking many stories “in process”.
Agile development can also be a threat to the pacesetter’s sense of control – which can exaggerate the negative behavior. Agile emphasizes whole team participation, responsibility, and rewards. The pacesetter may feel lost and long to add value as an individual.