Project Management Leaders in an integrated team.

A leader is looked upon as the one who steers the course, and this is the case in project management. However, the person at the helm is only one in a system to deliver a project successfully. A leader is not someone who barks orders, and in project management it is someone who is a leader of an integrated team. A team with shared responsibility of the team and stakeholders to deliver a project on time and within budget.

Project leaders rely on data, and use tools like dashboards, Gantt charts and time tracking software to achieve project success.  Leadership is often misunderstood in general and in particular in project management, yet it’s one of the most important positions on the project team.

Leadership isn’t one thing. There are many different styles and combinations of those types. The most common forms of leadership are;

  • Transformational
  • Leader-Member Exchange
  • Adaptive
  • Strengths-Based
  • Servant
  • Transactional

Project leadership, put simply, is the act of leading a team towards the successful completion of a project. But of course, it is much more than that. It’s about getting something done well through others. But project leadership requires skills in both managing people and tasks. It is a soft skill; part art, part science. Looking over the management style of anyone in charge of any project, there will be a myriad of ways in which goals are accomplished. Much of these differences are based on the person’s personality and what style of leadership they naturally gravitate towards.

Further a project leader is someone who leads a project, but that doesn’t really get to the bottom of this seemingly simple title. There are project managers, who are responsible for many of the aspects that we associate with leadership. They assemble the team, devise the plan and manage resources to maintain the schedule and keep within budget.

But leadership is a quality that should be expressed by everyone. It’s not just leading by example, such as the project manager rolling up their sleeves and joining in on the work as needed, but everyone on the project team must take a leadership role. They need to own their responsibilities and manage the tasks assigned to them. The last thing anyone wants is a team of robots who can’t make a move without being directed.

That said, there is a project leader and their job is different than that of the team they manage. They have to straddle many worlds being both technically organizationally adept, able to engage effectively across boundaries, connecting talent with key challenges. Think of a project leader as the consummate integrator. They help others succeed.

Project leadership is difficult work, and while most project managers are adept at leveraging the tools and processes of the trade, there’s no single body of knowledge to learn and pass a test on when it comes to leading successfully. It’s the ultimate school where learning by doing is the only way forward.

There are however, common approaches of successful leaders, which are outlined by the following 10 attributes:

  • They are grounded and centred
  • They are aware and mindful
  • They create solutions
  • They are analytical
  • They can evaluate risk
  • They can generate a sense of urgency
  • They are insightful
  • They build cohesion
  • They motivate people
  • They achieve results

Above all remember that leadership is fluid, Just as dealing with people requires nuance, so does determining what makes up a good leader. Still, these 10 points are pillars on which you can build project leadership. Emulating respected project leaders is a good place to start, those who have experience and have lead projects in ways that you wish to emulate. Seeking out help from a mentor is recommended, because they can add a depth of dimension to the process that all the books in the world can never articulate.

Another thing to do is keep in mind the following six concepts that hold good metal.

1. Mind the Gap: Take time to explore the gap between navigating and leveraging the tools of the trade and leading others.

2. Team Development: If you take care of the team and ensure that you form and frame the right environment, the team will take care of the initiative.

3. Let the Team Define Your Role: From alignment on the purpose of the project to treating team members with respect to ensuring fair and even accountability to setting expectations high to not micro-managing.

4. Teach Your Team How to Talk: Spend time focusing on strengthening your facilitation skills.

5. Teach Your Team How to Decide: Teams succeed or fail based on how they navigate moments of truth in the form of key, often irreversible decisions.

6. Everyone Communicates, Leaders Connect: Great leaders at all levels strive to connect with team members on something a bit more personal than status meetings and reports.

Everyone has a theory on what makes a great leader, and with good reason. Leadership is a quality that’s important for success and yet so difficult to define. But great leadership isn’t subjective. People have studied leadership. A strong understanding of leadership provides us with a variety of legitimate options for different scenarios, and helps a person set up themselves, their team or company for success. People are more intentional than reactional when it comes to leadership.

Leaders are people who are able to inspire others to share, motivate and act on a vision, encourage others and help them overcome obstacles in pursuit of that vision.

The following is a list of some core values of a strong leader.

  1. Communication: The ability to disseminate information and listen actively.
  2. Motivation: Getting people to want to do what you need them to do.
  3. Delegation: Knowing that you can’t do everything and trusting others to help you carry the load by completing assigned tasks.
  4. Positivity: Keeping a positive attitude, regardless of the situation, helps with morale.
  5. Trustworthiness: People aren’t going to listen to you or do what you ask if you don’t first instil a sense of trust.
  6. Creativity: There will always be problems that can’t be solved by rote; you must think creatively and be open to taking chances. Employ divergent thinking to find unique solutions.
  7. Feedback: Leadership doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Listen to your team, stakeholders, advisors, mentors, etc., and take their opinions seriously.
  8. Responsibility: You can’t expect people to follow you if you’re not taking responsibility for the bigger picture and your behaviour.
  9. Commitment: You also cannot expect to lead others if you are not committed to the project.
  10. Flexibility: Things change, and rigidity can ruin a project, so you must be willing to adapt and not hold too tightly to anything.

A project manager can be thought of as wearing many hats. The best know this and shift from leaders to managers many times during the day, doing what it takes to move the project forward. By doing this they set an example for the team, which benefits everyone.

If you want to encourage, inspire, motivate and fuel your team, leadership by example is one of the best ways to get buy-in and build trust. What are the practical things people can do to encourage, inspire, motivate and fuel their teams to complete more project tasks? Good leadership is supported by many things, from teams to tools. Let us know you thoughts on leading project teams and how to get the best results from your resources. We would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

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