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What it Takes to Lead - Part 2

~ By Brad Egeland

Business leadership concept

In Part 1 of this two part series, we began to look at some of the items that really differentiate project leadership from normal project management participation. We looked at embracing change, communicating, having a constancy of purpose, and we also discussed the ability to motivate those around you and those that you have authority over on your projects.

In Part 2, we will look at three more ways that project leadership is set apart…and I welcome your input because this list is far from complete. What do you think sets project leaders apart?

Leadership isn't easy…there isn't a manual written about it and not everyone is cut out for the role. But this list covers many of the things that are expected of project leaders, and, by fulfilling most or all of these, you will definitely be managing your project, team, and customer well and find yourself on the path to project success.

Leadership Means Taking Risks When Necessary

Leadership sometimes involves a willingness to take smart, calculated risks. Leaders look for better ways not only to conduct business but also to take action. They embrace ambiguity and complexity in a manner that fosters innovative ideas and solutions to achieve the vision. They build cohesive teams that have synergy. They are proactive, not reactive.

Leadership Means Facilitating Performance

Team members share information and other resources in a way that encourages cross-functional participation. Leaders build an atmosphere of trust and mutual support, emphasising relational rather than hierarchical interactions and directing team energy toward achieving the vision. Thus, leadership means facilitating rather than impeding performance. Leaders help people do their jobs in a positive, not negative, way. They remove obstacles that block the way to performance. They do not create them. Leaders secure the resources and do more than delegating responsibilities. They can manoeuvre through the "halls of power," network with key players, and interact with the customer to ensure satisfaction of all requirements and specifications. In addition, they can be political if it furthers the interests of the project.

Leadership Means Engaging the Customer and Putting Their Needs First

Leaders strive to understand everything about the customer - for example, needs, tastes, and relevant market conditions. The customer is king and drives the vision; without that focus on the vision, the project can become impractical or get out of hand. Having said that, smart project leaders also need to know when to listen to the customer and when to act in the customer's best interest and question their plans and needs. A project leader recognises that he and his team are the experts brought in to serve the customer.

Summary

Not all leaders are created equal, and not all project managers are truly leading. Leadership takes skill, determination, respect that has been earned, authority that has been given because of performance and ability, and customer engagement that can be followed through upon. It isn't about just taking some requirements and a group of individuals and going through the motions, so to speak. Leadership is about making decisions, following through on tasks, owning and being accountable for actions, and having the proper knowledge and experience to actually be successful on a regular basis. It's about getting the job done, and done right.


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