Leadership is a necessary skill for a project manager. The word leadership usually brings out images of the military, politics, as well as the most senior levels of the corporate world; however, leadership is not just a person. It is a function of directing and influencing human resources regardless of the type of organization, i.e., military, government or business. The leadership principles we discuss here are not limited to project management. These principles are valid in all leadership environments. Leadership is one of the essential elements of project management. Project leadership is the process of influencing others to accomplish the project by providing purpose, direction, identifying, and influencing what motivates individuals. Due to the volume of the topic to be discussed, this material will be presented in four separate parts.
Part 1 – Defining leadership and the role of managing versus leading (leadership), and factors of leadership
Part 2 – Leadership: Behavioral influences, motivations and leadership styles
Part 3 – Leadership Styles, Authority and Power
Part 4 – Qualities of a leader, authority and power, characteristics, and power building.
The definition of leadership difference between leadership and management the factors impacting leadership some of the behavioral aspects and motivational issues of leadership the general styles of leadership and the issue of authority versus power the characteristics of a leaders. We will discuss some power building techniques and tools and finally work as a leadership team to resolve a few case studies. Take out a piece of paper and answer these four questions in short preferably single sentence answers.
- What do you consider to be the objectives of leadership?
- Where does your personal leadership power come from?
- What do your subordinates expect from you as a leader?
- Why do people follow you? OR Why don’t they?
These questions represent how you feel about your personal role as a leader and your interpretation of your subordinates’ motivations. Much of what is covered here and your responses to the previous questions directly impact the views you hold. Keep these in mind as you read on and explore your own leadership style. For those that feel that they have mastered leadership already this information will simply be a review providing you with leadership power building tools to instruct your team or subordinates. While for those that haven’t mastered leadership skills, this information will provide you valuable insight as to the art of leading people and provide you this same list of power building tools that you can use to develop and exercise for effective project leadership.
There are many definitions of the word leadership; however, in order to have a discussion of leadership the use of dictionary.reference.com’s definition provides a reasonable starting point. When you type in the word “leadership” you will get an answer along the lines of “being a position or function of a leader; a person who guides or directs a group; an ability to lead; or an act or instance of leading, guidance, and or direction.” All this of course requires us to also define what a leader is; as such, the same web source provides us with – “someone who leads guides and directs.” Let’s look at my definition that’s even more specific to project management: Project leadership is the effort and action of influencing others by establishing purpose, direction, encouragement, and inspiration towards the successful accomplishment of the project.
Purpose, Direction, Encouragement, and Inspiration.
We provide purpose by communicating why those we lead should do difficult things under complex and stressful circumstances; and furthermore, what the expectations are for success. Purpose provides the team with the business, organizations and or customer’s needs, intent, and expectations of the final product – of what and how we will measure success. By establishing direction we show the future vision, and we exercise strategies towards meeting those ends. In direction, we provide prioritization, supervision, control, instruction, and guidance. Through motivation and inspiration, leaders help team members find the will to do everything they are capable of doing to accomplish a project. Leaders motivate by supporting, encouraging, urging, and providing assurance to their members. Leaders further their skills of persuasion, knowledge or power to use rewards and punishments in an effort to motivate people or influence the team’s success. We will dig into this again but first – Why are we talking about leadership, shouldn’t we be talking about management? You can manage “things” without leadership ability but you cannot manage people effectively without leadership skills. To become a good effective leader requires you to gain the trust and respect of the team. Leading deals with taking the organization to the next level through direction, purpose, and motivation; whereas management deals with sustaining the organization through speed of operation, processes, and controls.
What is the difference between Managing and Leading?
- Leaders: Have a vision, set direction, align employees focus, inspire team work and motivate and support the team.
- Managers: Implement vision, plan and budget resources, staff the work, organize groups, and synchronize and control the activities.
Remember that the success of your project always depends more on people than a process. Leading people can be the difference between project success and failure. Without good leadership a project can fail to meet its goals because the people won’t feel they have the support or guidance they need to make it happen. Projects don’t run themselves – people run projects – people complete tasks – people fail or people succeed in tasks and projects.
Leadership skills are especially important to the project manager over that of the line manager because of the organizational authority inherent to line positions is direct and that is not usually the same for the project manager. In either case, maximizing human potential is our goal in leadership and influencing behavior is at the root of that goal. This is why we need to look deeper at leadership as a critical tool to reaching project success. Leading effectively is not a mystery and if we break it down just as we breakdown a project we can try and learn more about what it really is.
So then what are the factors that impact leadership?
Four Factors of Leadership: The Led (the team), the Leader (Project Manager), the Situation, and Communications. These are the four major factors of project leadership and they are always present and affect the actions you should take and when you should take them.
The first major factor of project leadership, the Led, are those team members you are responsible for leading and those individuals that you will need to influence. You must also identify and recognize those outside your direct influence as those you will need to informally lead or influence. This includes functional employees outside your direct control that will be providing support or services to your project and may also include outside contractors, line managers, and even customers in many cases. Since everyone cannot be led in the same way, part of identifying the “led” is also to correctly assess competence, motivation, and commitment so that you can take the proper project leadership actions.
The second major project leadership factor is you, the project manager. You must have an honest understanding of who you are, what you know, and what you can do. You must know your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, and limitations so that you can control and discipline yourself and lead your team members effectively. Assessing others may be easier than looking honestly at yourself. If you have difficulty assessing yourself, ask your senior manager or supervisor what he or she would like to see you change about the way you lead your team members or how you support him or her. You can also seek the counsel of your peers, or ask an experienced subordinates how well he or she thinks you issue orders, instructions or provide needed information. Consider all these points of view and then work on improving yourself.
The situation is the third major project leadership factor. All situations are different; project leadership actions that work in one situation may not work in another. To determine the best project leadership action to take, first consider the available resources and the factors impacting the project. Based on your assessments of the “led”, one situation may require close supervisions – another situation may require you to encourage and listen to ideas. In still another, you may need to both direct and encourage a team member to ensure he or she can accomplish a task.
Communications, the fourth major project leadership factor, is the exchange of information and ideas from one person to another. Effective communications occurs when others understand exactly what you are trying to tell them and when you understand precisely what they are trying to tell you. You may communicate what you want orally, or in writing, through physical actions, or through a combination of all of these. Remember that what and how you communicate either builds or harms the strength of the relationship between you and your team members. We’ve just talked of the major factors of leadership but we must also understand the other variables that impact leading and communicating.
Go to link: Leadership in Project Management Part 2 of 4: Leadership Continued: Behavioral Influences and Motivations