During the first three parts of this four part article we’ve discussed definitions of leadership and especially as project leadership. We’ve looked at the role of managing versus leading, factors of leadership, behavioral influences, motivations and leadership styles. For the remainder of this journey we will focus on identifying specific leadership qualities, what is meant by and the difference between authority and power, and techniques in building and developing your leadership skills and influence as a project leader.
What are the Qualities of a Good Leader?
These are some of the more significant characteristics. It’s of course not an all-inclusive list:
Clear Vision – Accurate perception of priorities and communicates them – Creative and a Problem Solver – Listens – Relates well to people – Understands basic human needs – Integrity and Trust – Empowers others – Win-Win – Negotiating – Charismatic – Proactive – Synergistic – Motivated – Enthusiastic and a Positive attitude – Committed and Dedicated – Tenacity – Flexible – Continually learning
How do your leadership and management qualities stack up to this list?
Tools to Build Leadership Power
Develop and communicate a shared vision of the project, what success and quality looks like. Encourage open discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page. Have you ever asked for one thing (had your own vision in mind of what you wanted) but received something close but not really what you were expecting. Give clear and concise expectations and the measure of success.
Avoid negative talk: to appear more self-confident and to project a more positive image use positive talk. It takes some self-discipline. Avoid words or labels like incompetent, stupid, jerk, airhead, or other negative words when describing others and especially yourself. How would you talk to an employee that hands you a product that is close but not what you had in mind?
Put a positive spin on potentially negative situations, such as, challenged with a very difficult job or undesirable job. How would you present a very unpleasant task to your employees or team members?
Seek first to understand. Listen intently with a goal to understand the words said and the meaning displayed by the body language, the tone of voice the emotional content of the message. Ask questions and show sincere interest. Good listening does more than clear up communications and understanding; it builds the idea that you have some empathy and or real interest in the person you’re talking with. Your response will then be based on more information than just the words alone and hopefully more accurate and effective to the recipient.
Go one-on-one will allow you to tailor your communications directly to that person based on their individual uniqueness, as opposed to what usually happens in a group setting. In groups we communicate to only those that are receptive to the way we are giving the message. We don’t always the full attention of everyone we intended on.
Be available – but don’t micromanage. Give the team room to breathe and grow. Minimizing micro-management helps to maximize the contribution of the team members. If you micromanage the group, your team members can become disgruntled degrading and reducing creativity and productivity.
Choose and Encourage pro-activity, this goes both ways, you need to be proactive, and avoid procrastination.
Understanding Human Nature: Each of us is motivated to do things or not to do things based on our beliefs, values, norms and our attitude. Appealing to this common ground will provide the team a flag to rally around. For example: being the best department, crew, or team.
Recognize that needs determine what motivates people by establishing a driving force within them. Create goals that are motivational through such means as developing specific, difficult goals that will later on serve as the basis for performance.
Build a team culture that motivates its members, such as a climate whereby people get caught up in the excitement of performing well. Recognize and encourage the talents and the efforts of others. Small gifts, recognition in front of the team, small team parties, social events, birthday cards, holiday cards, hand written notes of appreciation, etc.
Use team terms and bury the first person singular. Emphasizing the words team members or teammates and de-emphasizing the words subordinates and employees help communicate the norm of teamwork and a teamwork culture.
Management By Walking Around – This is another opportunity to go one-on-one and to build and nurture your relationship with each team member and with those outside the team that still must be led to support the team. It is also the time to acquire knowledge about what is happening or not happening in the project. Show interest in the individuals and their efforts to support the team. Be there to offer your assistance, advice, and encouragement.
Involve the team members and others to solve and resolve problems. Encourage, accept, and use their ideas. Consulting with others before making a decision is a simple but effective influence tactic. The influenced target becomes more motivated to follow your request because he or she is involved in the decision-making process. How good do you feel when the boss accepts one of your ideas, supports, and implements it? Not only do you feel better about yourself – you tend to feel good about the boss as well.
Often times there are individuals in the group that have developed an informal leadership relationship with the other team members. These informal leaders have usually gained influence over others through their expertise or through referent power. Identify the informal leader in your group and develop a relationship with that person. This person’s strengths with the group can be an asset to you. Seek them out, these people generally seek and expect acknowledgement and respect from others – so give it to them and then empower them to the benefit of the team. As you gain the informal leader’s trust you will gain the trust of those that follow him or her. Eventually the team will influence itself with your giving it purpose, establishing the direction, and motivation.
Empower your team members. When you empower them you are giving them freedom to exercise decision making within the parameters of their job. You are giving them authority and responsibility to act in the manner of their choosing to accomplish the tasks assigned them. You are telling them by words and actions that you trust them to do the right thing. Empowerment is a powerful tool for building the individuals of the team and to help ensure that the team can function in your absence. Delegate when possible, it is the sign of complete trust and confidence in the team member, not to mention it takes some burden off you; though remember, ultimately, no matter how much you empower and delegate, you still retain overall responsibility. You do, however, need to hold those you empower
Leadership Power Building: Ethical Team Building Behavior Skills
Our Ethics are the principles or standards that guide us to do the moral or right thing as in, “what ought to be done.” Your ethical behavior will influence and manipulate others to do the ethical thing. As a project manager, you have three general ethical responsibilities. First, you must be a good role model. Second, you must develop your team members ethically. Finally, you must lead in such a way that you avoid putting your team members into ethical dilemmas. Be a role mode, whether you like it or not, you are on display at all times. Your actions say much more than your words. Team members will watch you carefully and imitate your behavior. You must accept the obligation to be a worthy role model and you cannot ignore the effect your behavior has on others. You must be willing to do what you require of your team members and share the dangers and hardships.
Develop your team members ethically. You must shape the values and beliefs of your team members to support the values of the organization towards the completion of the project. Being sensitive to the ethical elements of team members is a big part of developing your team. Your goal is to develop a shared ethical perspective so that your team members will act properly in the confusion and uncertainty of project.
Keep the “can do” attitude but don’t go so far as making a promise that you can’t keep.
Loose the “Zero Defects” mentality. Zero defects mentality can lead to the ethical concern of covering up errors to look good.
Other obvious potentials for ethical dilemmas include, telling superiors what they want to hear even when the info is wrong and making reports say what your project manager wants to see.
Leadership Power Building: More on Personal Behavior Skills
Stay cool under pressure. Closely linked to self-confidence is the ability to stay calm in crisis situations. Act like a duck: look calm, cool, and relaxed on the surface while paddling like a fury underneath to work the group out of the problem. Help your team gain and keep perspective during the crisis. Keep them focused on the task. Avoid and watch for quick fixes that will hurt the organization. Get back to basics. This is just another problem for the problem solving method – you just have less time to do it. So act quickly, decisively, and trust yourself.
Lead by example. What we do will communicate far more than what we say. Down play arguments – separate the behavior from the person.
Develop your expertise in your field. Project management is your primary field. Also take time to become more knowledgeable in the technical aspects of your project – it’s not necessary to have a technical expertise as a project manager – but it helps if you understand the technology somewhat.
Respect the skills and experience of others – Often employee’s confidence lies in their expertise and experience. Acknowledge and use their talents – it will help you and show respect for their skills and accomplishments. Give them responsibility to mentor or coach another team member – consult with them and allow them to teach you. You have everything to gain
Leadership Power Building – Leading When You Don’t Know the Technology
Is it necessary to be a technical expert of the sciences involved in your project? No, it helps but it’s not a necessity. Remember your role is as the leader and manager providing purpose, establishing direction, encouraging, motivating and influencing the team towards successful project completion. Project management methodology is the real skill you need to effectively and efficiently lead your team; although, you must have Subject Mater Experts as members on the team. With periodic project status meetings and examinations of the results of phases or milestones you be surprised at what you’ll learn along the way. Team members are your source of expertise. These meetings will, with all the key players, keep the information out on the table and available for scrutiny by those that can inform you of problems. It also helps each team member keep abreast of their role and impact on the project.
Also remember Management by Walking Around. Listening and learning from the team members. Ask questions. Know who to go to for real solid answers on the technical issues if necessary.
Team Development – Tools & Techniques
Reward and Recognition Systems promote and reinforce desired behavior. They must be direct correlation between behavior and reward. If a reward is offered on reaching a goal, person must be capable of achieving the goal.
Consider collocation of the team, sometimes called a project “War Room.” Placing team members in the same physical location enhances ability to perform as a team and track work progress. Collocation of the team helps to improve communications, allow you as the leader to develop the teamwork behavior of the group, enhance reporting and visibility of the real project status. Often a dedicate War Room can be used to display current status and future activities for everyone to see.
Now that we’ve dug into the muscle of leadership, specifically project leadership, look back on what was covered as being the characteristics of a good leader. Do your own self-assessment of where your leadership strengths and weakness lie. Be brutally honest with yourself. List your three best leadership skills then list your three “needs improvement” leadership skills. Consider what you can do to improve your leadership skills or your ability to utilize the skills you have. Determine how you can improve each weakness and take better advantage of your strengths.
To Sum Up
The objective in this four part discussion was to provide you a better understanding of your role as a leader in project management. Leadership is a crucial part of this business and as stated before can make or break project success. We’ve covered a lot of territory as you can see. What has been presented here can be a first step in helping you to recognize and define your personal leadership role as a project manager. Don’t be afraid to seek out other leadership resources, lectures, books, as well as mentoring by others you believe have the skills you want to improve upon are all methods to develop your leadership skills. Seek out a leadership mentor to help you improve your own leadership skills as a part of your personal professional development program.
Think about those people in history and maybe someone you’ve known or know of – that is readily accepted as a successful or great leader. What do they all have in common? It comes down to this – their ability to influence the behavior, the efforts and actions of others towards a goal or objective.
The effects of leadership, good or bad, will last beyond the individual leader his or herself. The effect of good leadership will allow the project to continue down the right path even in your absence. However, weak or ineffective leadership can leave behind not only a failed project, but also a broken team. Your leadership skills will be your greatest asset during the project management life-cycle. Even when there is no direct supervisory hierarchical relationship, you can lead others through the power of influence. Good leaders leave a legacy, a positive example for others to follow. Poor leadership leaves its own mark as well. What do you want your legacy to be?