Effective Leadership as a Catalyst for Successful Projects

Project managers tend not to think of human resources beyond resource sourcing and ensuring same perform their functions on time and to a high level of quality. I am a proponent of pushing leadership as a separate knowledge area because of its importance that cannot be over-emphasized.

One of the main challenges of implementing proper leadership in a project is its temporary nature. Project teams can last from just a few months to many years depending on the scope. Hence, it might be impractical to expect the project manager to take the team through a thorough team building stage in a short term project. But regardless of the duration, leadership skills can help the project manager win the trust of the team and increase efficiency.

Leadership can be viewed from four dimensions – Me, We, Work and World. The “Me” dimension means that leading is not about being a boss at work. It entails practicing personal leadership by holding oneself to high level of performance, leading by example, etc. The “We” part is where an individual shows his interpersonal skills. One cannot claim to be a leader if the simplest form of human relations is missing in that person’s character. The “Work” part is about organizational leadership. It is about leading teams at work to achieve set objectives. “World” is the dimension that deals with how we help the society and the world at large to progress. Our social responsibility, respect for human rights, committing to a sustainable environment, etc.
A leadership attribute that a project manager would find useful is empathy. No one wants to work with a project manager who cannot show that he genuinely cares about his team. This doesn’t mean giving undue advantage to the resources but work actually goes faster when there is empathy from the leader and it creates a huge sense of loyalty in the team.
A leader also must embrace and lead innovation. The world has moved from the traditional managerial duties to one with leadership at the core. Organizations and individuals who are still using the old world standard of coercion will not succeed in the new age. Leaders must be seen as driving efficiency and innovation in their teams.
Project managers are often given projects in areas where they had little or no hands-on experience. This is quite challenging but a project manager with leadership orientations will find this advantageous. Leaders know that it is acceptable to be ignorant about a subject but that they can learn from anyone, including their subordinates. Project managers who are not humble enough to learn will find themselves in trouble. In the 21st century fast paced work environment, it is indeed impossible to have all the knowledge in the beginning, but a successful project manager would learn from every source he can lay her/his hands on.

Leaders don’t just make policies. Leaders make policies with the help of their team members. Humans are generally rebellious but are cooperative if they find a sense of belonging. Before you make that next policy – do yourself a favor and invite your team members to contribute and they will adhere to the rules. In fact, there is nothing more effective than making it look like it is all their idea. If you have never evolved a way of working guideline with your project team before, this is a good time to start and do it properly.

Leadership development is a life time journey and it takes a lot of reflections and a commitment to keep learning and improving. Success in projects will be greatly hinged on the ability to effectively lead teams, show empathy, have guidelines, innovate and lead by example.

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