“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
That quote by Dwight Eisenhower has resonated with me throughout my academic and professional careers. Every "good" boss/manager I’ve ever dealt with who I had the most respect for never made me feel as if I was told to do something – I always was happy to do it and wanted to do it well. Whether you realize it or not, whenever you are tasked with leading a group of your peers and/or colleagues, your leadership style comes to the forefront. Project managers are tested day in and day out on their ability to lead while they keep their projects progressing and successfully executing their respective deliverable. Dealing with stakeholders can be enough of a challenge, but keeping your own team motivated is key to any successful engagement.
Fortunately for project managers (young and old) there are ample resources available to help hone in your project management and leaderships skill set. Globally recognized resources such as the Corporate Education Group (CEG) or Project Management Institute (PMI) offer many free webinars and other in person seminars to help today’s project management professionals get better at their craft. I've highlighted a few key concepts to keep in mind that both organizations often emphasize:
Nobody likes being kept out of the loop. Your team is the lifeline of the project – make them feel like it! Be clear about expectations, deadlines, escalation procedures, and what the end goal is and how it will be measured. Managing on a “need to know” basis is a dated practice that has no place in today’s landscape. You owe it to your team to keep them informed. Knowledge is power, and the more you share with them the more they have to use to their advantage.
As a project manager it is your responsibility to have a handle on the pulse of your projects. What better way than to meet with those actually carrying out the execution of each phase. Weekly correspondence/meetings are a good way to avoid any breakdowns in communication and possibly prevent any delays in the project (or at the very least give you advanced notice). This does not mean you need to conduct meetings just to conduct them. How often have you sat in meetings that could have been accurately summarized with a well written email? Save yourself the facetime and let your people do their thing! If conducting a meeting has no true value, cancel it! No need to waste your time and the time of your team.
Listening is a skill that can be applied to almost any facet of everyday life, and is arguably the most underrated asset of any manager. Listen to understand, not to reply. Project management is an ever changing, fluid field. New ideas will help you overcome obstacles and improve your strategy when challenges arise, and who better to fall back on than your team members who are on the ground level who can provide insight that nobody else could.
Whether or not your job title has the word “manager” or “director” in it does not determine if you are a leader. Worrying about the well-being of your peers/colleagues while supporting them perform their job stands out above any fancy title. Superiors who utilize authority as a means to lead aren’t leaders, they’re bosses. I’ve been fortunate to have had good and bad managers throughout my career. No that isn’t a typo – I appreciate each and every one of them. I can honestly say I learned several good traits, and also learned what not to do in several cases. Either way I’m better for the experience, and hope you can apply some of these tips as you continue to grow and develop your project management and leadership skills.