Leadership is a Necessary Skill for a Project Manager

Lead1Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

The word leadership usually brings out images of the military, politics, as well as the most senior levels of the corporate world; however, leadership is not just a person. It is a function of directing and influencing human resources regardless of the type of organization, i.e., military, government or business. The leadership principles we discuss here are not limited to project management. These principles are valid in all leadership environments. Leadership is one of the essential elements of project management. Project leadership is the process of influencing others to accomplish the project by providing purpose, direction, identifying, and influencing what motivates individuals. Due to the volume of the topic to be discussed, this material will be presented in four separate parts.

Leadership Topics

The definition of leadership difference between leadership and management the factors impacting leadership some of the behavioral aspects and motivational issues of leadership the general styles of leadership and the issue of authority versus power the characteristics of a leaders. We will discuss some power building techniques and tools and finally work as a leadership team to resolve a few case studies. Take out a piece of paper and answer these four questions in short preferably single sentence answers.

Lead2Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

These questions represent how you feel about your personal role as a leader and your interpretation of your subordinates' motivations. Much of what is covered here and your responses to the previous questions directly impact the views you hold. Keep these in mind as you read on and explore your own leadership style. For those that feel that they have mastered leadership already this information will simply be a review providing you with leadership power building tools to instruct your team or subordinates. While for those that haven't mastered leadership skills, this information will provide you valuable insight as to the art of leading people and provide you this same list of power building tools that you can use to develop and exercise for effective project leadership.

There are many definitions of the word leadership; however, in order to have a discussion on leadership, we need to establish a common or agreeable starting point. Most definitions of leadership will sound something like: being a position or function of a leader; a person who guides or directs a group; ability to lead; or an act or instance of leading, guidance, and or direction. All this of course requires us to also define what a leader is; as such, the same web source provides us with - someone who leads guides and directs. Let's look at my (author of this article) definition that's even more specific to project management: Project leadership is the effort and action of influencing others by establishing purpose, direction, encouragement, and inspiration towards the successful accomplishment of the project.

Lead3Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Purpose, Direction, Encouragement, and Inspiration

  • We provide purpose by communicating why those we lead should do difficult things under complex and stressful circumstances; and furthermore, what the expectations are for success. Purpose provides the team with the business, organizations and or customer's needs, intent, and expectations of the final product - of what and how we will measure success.
  • By establishing direction we show the future vision, and we exercise strategies towards meeting those ends. In direction, we provide prioritization, supervision, control, instruction, and guidance.
  • Through motivation and inspiration, leaders help team members find the will to do everything they are capable of doing to accomplish a project. Leaders motivate by supporting, encouraging, urging, and providing assurance to their members.

Leaders further their skills of persuasion, knowledge or power to use rewards and punishments in an effort to motivate people or influence the team's success. We will dig into this again but first - Why are we talking about leadership, shouldn't we be talking about management? You can manage "things" without leadership ability but you cannot manage people effectively without leadership skills. To become a good effective leader requires you to gain the trust and respect of the team. Leading deals with taking the organization to the next level through direction, purpose, and motivation; whereas management deals with sustaining the organization through speed of operation, processes, and controls.

What is the difference between Managing and Leading?

  • Leaders: Have a vision, set direction, align employees focus, inspire team work and motivate and support the team.
  • Managers: Implement vision, plan and budget resources, staff the work, organize groups, and synchronize and control the activities.


Remember that the success of your project always depends more on people than a process. Leading people can be the difference between project success and failure. Without good leadership a project can fail to meet its goals because the people won't feel they have the support or guidance they need to make it happen. Projects don't run themselves - people run projects - people complete tasks - people fail or people succeed in tasks and projects.

Leadership skills are especially important to the project manager over that of the line manager because of the organizational authority inherent to line positions is direct and that is not usually the same for the project manager. In either case, maximizing human potential is our goal in leadership and influencing behavior is at the root of that goal. This is why we need to look deeper at leadership as a critical tool to reaching project success. Leading effectively is not a mystery and if we break it down just as we breakdown a project we can try and learn more about what it really is.

So then what are the factors that impact leadership?

Lead4Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2013

Four Factors of Leadership: The Led (the team), the Leader (Project Manager), the Situation, and Communications. These are the four major factors of project leadership and they are always present and affect the actions you should take and when you should take them.

The first major factor of project leadership, the Led, are those team members you are responsible for leading and those individuals that you will need to influence. You must also identify and recognize those outside your direct influence as those you will need to informally lead or influence. This includes functional employees outside your direct control that will be providing support or services to your project and may also include outside contractors, line managers, and even customers in many cases. Since everyone cannot be led in the same way, part of identifying the "led" is also to correctly assess competence, motivation, and commitment so that you can take the proper project leadership actions.

The second major project leadership factor is you, the project manager. You must have an honest understanding of who you are, what you know, and what you can do. You must know your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, and limitations so that you can control and discipline yourself and lead your team members effectively. Assessing others may be easier than looking honestly at yourself. If you have difficulty assessing yourself, ask your senior manager or supervisor what he or she would like to see you change about the way you lead your team members or how you support him or her. You can also seek the counsel of your peers, or ask an experienced subordinates how well he or she thinks you issue orders, instructions or provide needed information. Consider all these points of view and then work on improving yourself.

The situation is the third major project leadership factor. All situations are different; project leadership actions that work in one situation may not work in another. To determine the best project leadership action to take, first consider the available resources and the factors impacting the project. Based on your assessments of the "led", one situation may require close supervisions - another situation may require you to encourage and listen to ideas. In still another, you may need to both direct and encourage a team member to ensure he or she can accomplish a task.

Communications, the fourth major project leadership factor, is the exchange of information and ideas from one person to another. Effective communications occurs when others understand exactly what you are trying to tell them and when you understand precisely what they are trying to tell you. You may communicate what you want orally, or in writing, through physical actions, or through a combination of all of these. Remember that what and how you communicate either builds or harms the strength of the relationship between you and your team members. We've just talked of the major factors of leadership but we must also understand the other variables that impact leading and communicating.

Behavioral Influences: Beliefs, Values, Norms, and Attitude.

We all come to the table with our own set of Beliefs, Values, and Norms. These things greatly determine how we view each other and the situations we are faced with every day. Our attitudes are often influenced by the first three items. You as a leader and project manager must be aware and consider the impact of these things when you interact with your team and those individuals that can and will impact your progress of the project. Understanding people in the context of their beliefs, values, and norms will assist you in better communicating and leading them towards the project objective. Your own attitude will impact that of your subordinate.

Beliefs, Assumptions, Convictions, and What is True to You

Beliefs are assumptions or convictions you hold as true about something, concept, or person. They can range from the very deep-seated beliefs you hold concerning such things as religion and the fundamentals upon which this country was established to recent experiences which have affected your perception of a particular person, concept, or thing. One team member may believe that the idea of duty simply means putting in time from "8 to 5." Another may believe that duty is selflessly serving the organization, the team and you. You have beliefs about human nature--about what makes people tick. We usually cannot prove our beliefs, but we think and feel that they are true. For example, some people believe that a car is simply a means of transportation. Others believe a car is a status symbol. There are project managers who believe that rewards and punishment are the only way to motivate team members. In contrast, other leaders believe that rewards and punishment should be used only in exceptional cases.

The important point to recognize is that people generally behave in accord with their beliefs. Your beliefs as project manager impact directly on the project leadership climate, cohesion, discipline, training, and project effectiveness of a team.

Values: Attitudes about worth or importance, impact decision making, impact prioritization, and guide actions. As relating to values, "What do you get excited about? I was told that a preacher once stood up in front of his congregation and stated, "I have three things to say to you. The first is, there are two billion people in the world starving to death. The second thing is that the majority of you here don't really give a damn. The third is that the greatest tragedy is that there are more of you here angry about my saying --Damn -- in church just now than about the 2 billion starving people." The point to this story is that petty people get excited about petty issues and significant people get excited about significant issues and these reflect people's real values. Our values are attitudes about how we see the worth or importance of people, concepts, or things.

Values influence your behavior because you use them to decide between alternatives. For example, you may place higher value on truth, money, friendships, justice, human rights, or selflessness. Your values will influence your priorities. Your strongest values are what you put first, defend most, and want least to give up. Individual values can and will conflict at times.

Norms: Official norms based on agreement, Official standards, and Informal or Unwritten standards. What you value the most will guide your actions. Do you think that your values match those of your employees, superiors, the organization, or your customers? Norms are the rules or laws normally based on agreed-upon beliefs and values that members of a group follow to live in harmony. Norms can fall into one of two categories. Formal norms are officially agreed rules and official standards or laws that govern behavior. Traffic signals, federal and state laws, formal company policies, and operations manuals are formal norms that direct the behavior of team members. They dictate what actions are required or forbidden and informal norms or unwritten rules or standards that govern the behavior of group members. These include social behavior, good-manners, professional conduct, etc.; again, impacting on the decisions we make.

Attitude: As to an individual's attitude, both good and bad or maybe even indifference is often a projection of our beliefs, values, and personal confidence or lack thereof. Our attitude is often expressed in our outward behavior towards an issue or problem, a team member, a subordinate, a boss, or even a customer. It is often a visible expression of how we feel or deal with problems, issues, things, and people. You as a leader must be aware of your own expression of your attitude to ensure that you do not damage the morale of the team. You above all - must maintain a positive attitude during the life-cycle of the project. At the same time you must be observant of the team members to recognize and guard against outward expressions of less than acceptable attitudes. You can help control the impact of poor attitudes by the way the team sees you deal with problems and issues.

Beliefs, values, and norms guide the actions of individuals and groups. They are like a traffic control system; they are signals giving direction, meaning, and purpose to our lives. They are shaped by past experiences involving such things as family, school, work, and social relationships. Project managers must understand the importance of nurturing and shaping beliefs and values in their team members because they are fundamental motivating factors.

Change and problems within the life-cycle of a project will happen. No doubt about it. Your attitude in dealing with the inevitable will influence your team. You can either accept the challenges and conquer them or give-in. The second option, however, is not acceptable.

Motivation: Any condition that might energize and direct our actions

Lead5Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Think about yourself for instance - What drives you to do the things you do? What do you think drives others to do what they do? Some of not all of you have probably seen this at some point of your life or education.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs from highest to lowest: You may have learned about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs while in college: Self-Actualization, Esteem Needs, Love and Belonging, Safety Needs, Physiological Needs being at the root of our motivations. As the theory goes these needs are not uniformly motivating. In one person at one point in time, level-one needs may comprise 10% of motivational output, level-two 15%, level three 55%, level-four 12% and level five needs 8%. A person's dominate level need will provide motivation to behave in ways to meet that needs. As a person moves up or down the scale, their motivational requirements change. By understanding what the primary motives or concerns people have you can adjust your method of dealing with them, communicating with them, and motivating them.[1]

Herzberg Theory: Another Theory or way of looking at what people want and or need is the Herzberg Theory.[1]

System-Maintenance Needs as Extrinsic Motivators: Job security, pleasant, safe work environment, equitable pay and fair company policies. Meeting them may not motivate employees to be highly motivated employees, but not meeting them will definitely "demotivate." Employees expect these needs to be met; these needs are directly related to the context in which the job is performed. These are extrinsic motivators that are expected to be met through sources outside the person or the company and you the leader.[1]

Human Qualities or Traits as Intrinsic Motivators: Desire for challenge, stimulation, autonomy, and recognition. Motivator needs must be satisfied through job "control" or what a worker actually does. These intrinsic motivators are met primarily within the individual worker. Intrinsically motivated behavior is self-induced; it tends to last longer, be more intense and require less monitoring than extrinsically motivated behavior. An intrinsically motivated person works for the sake of doing work, which is clearly advantageous to an organization. Leaders can make a job more intrinsically motivating by making the job more autonomous and giving them more responsibility, provide job enrichment programs, education, training, and recognizing achievements.[1]

People will behave in ways that they believe will lead to a (their) desired outcome.

How many employees try to fail at their jobs? How many people believe that leaders and managers try to fail? Let's keep in mind that first, if people fail, it's not usually and intentional an act of defiance. People don't usually try to become an obstacle to the project, so it is a relatively safe assumption to expect the best in others. What does influence their behavior is their need to achieve a particular outcome and avoid anything that threatens that outcome. What you need to do is figure out what makes these folks "tick" and support their motivations in a manner that mutually supports your own goals and objectives.

Three Styles of Leadership: Directing, Participating and Delegating

Lead6Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Leadership style is the personal manner and approach of leading (providing purpose, direction, and motivation). It is the way project managers directly interact with their team members. Effective project managers are flexible in the way they interact with team members. They deal with team members differently, changing the way they interact as a subordinate develops or as the situation or project changes. Some say they admire a certain leader because he or she always seems to know exactly what to do in a particular situation. Or they admire a leader who knows just the right words to say at the right time to ensure the project is accomplished and team members are cared for. Your manner and approach of leading will obviously depend on your training, education, experience, and view of the world. You have to be yourself, yet flexible enough to adjust to the people you lead and to the projects you are assigned. What experience teaches us is that you should not deal with all people the same.

For years when people talked about leadership styles they thought about two extremes, an autocratic style and a democratic style. Autocratic leaders used their legitimate authority and the power of their position to get results while democratic leaders used their personality to persuade, and involved team members in solving problems and making decisions. Thinking like this fails to consider the possibility of a leader using different styles and being flexible enough to be autocratic at times and democratic at other times, or to combine the two extreme styles at still other times.

Directing style of supervision tells employees and team members what, who, how, when, not necessarily why and not necessarily concerned with building team support. A project manager is using the directing leadership style when he or she tells team members what he or she wants done, how he or she wants it done, where he or she wants it done, and when he or she wants it done and then supervises closely to ensure they follow his or her directions. This style is clearly appropriate in some situations: when time is short and you alone know what needs to be done and how to do it, this style is the best way to accomplish the project. When leading team members who lack experience or competence at a task, you may need to direct their behavior using this style. The directing style of leadership does not build the idea of teamwork amongst its members and can be counter-productive with a skilled competent experienced team.

Some people think that a project manager is using the directing style when he yells, uses demeaning language, or threatens and intimidates team members. This is not the directing style. It is simply an abusive, unprofessional way to treat team members.

Participating style gets team members involved, asks for input, and builds confidence and buy-in; however, all final decisions remain in the leader's hands. A project manager is using the participating style when he or she involves team members in determining what to do and how to do it. The project manager asks for information and recommendations; however, he still makes the final decisions. He or she simply gets advice from team members before making the decision. This style is appropriate for many leadership situations. If your team members have some competence and support your goals, allowing them to participate can be a powerful team-building process. Encouraging participation of your team members helps build the teams cohesiveness.

As the old saying goes - "talk is cheap." So you must allow yourself to be influenced by the team. It will build their confidence and increase their support for the final plan if they help develop it. People hear what you say but having them see that you practice what you preach, will have a major impact on your credibility with the team and others that fall in the "led" category. "What you do is more important than what you say - actions speak louder than words.

Delegating style puts actions, problem solving and decision making at the lowest level practical or possible; involves mature team members; delegation of duties and responsibilities whenever possible and acknowledges and plays to member strengths. A project manager is using the delegating style when he or she delegates problem-solving and decision-making authority to a subordinate or to a group of team members. This style is appropriate when dealing with mature team members who support your goals and are competent and motivated to perform the task delegated. While you are always accountable to your senior manager and to the customer for the results of any task you delegate, you must hold your team members accountable to you for their actions and performance. Some things are appropriate to delegate; others are not. The key is to release your team members' problem-solving potential while you determine what problems they should solve and help them learn to solve them.

How would you choose a style? Choosing the correct style of leadership requires you to understand the four factors of leadership. You (the project manager) must size up every situation and subordinate carefully to choose the right style (the led). Consider how competent, motivated, and committed those you lead are at the task you want performed (the situation). Have they done it before? Were they successful? Will they need your supervision, direction, or encouragement to accomplish the project to standards? The answers to these questions will help you choose the best leadership style and manner to communicate so that your team members will understand your intent and want to help you accomplish the project.

Style to Experience Relationship: As people change, as the situation changes, there is a natural change to the selection and application of leadership styles. This is what is meant here by a life cycle theory of leadership. Leadership styles must change in accordance with the maturity of the employees and the team. Maturity means their job-related experience, willingness to accept responsibilities and desire to achieve the project or organizations goals and objectives.

A style to team skill to hands-on leadership time scale looks something like this. . . 

Lead7Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

This model shows the relationship of leadership to the team member or employee skill and experience level. Our ultimate goal is develop our employees, our team members to the delegating level. This is the most efficient of the three project leadership styles. An inexperienced subordinate needs your direction: you must tell him or her what needs to be done and how to do it. After he or she gains some competence, and if he or she is motivated and shares team and project goals, you can reduce the amount of supervision you give to him or her. Encourage him or her, ask for advice, and allow them to participate in helping you make plans and decisions. With time, experience, and your skillful leadership, this person will gain even more competence and become even more motivated and committed to helping the team accomplish its projects. When you have trained and developed a subordinate to this level of competence and commitment, use the delegating style of project leadership.

As projects change or as new tasks are assigned, you will need to continue to be flexible in the leadership style you use. Even though you have successfully used the delegating project leadership style with a subordinate, you may need to temporarily return to the directing style of project leadership if you give him an unfamiliar, or a new, task. Because the team member is unfamiliar with the task, you will need to tell them what to do and how to do it. As the subordinates gains competency, confidence, and motivation in this new task, you can gradually shift your style again to the participating or delegating style. By assessing the project leadership needs of your team members, you can determine what project leadership style to use. There is no one best project leadership style. What works in one situation may not work in another. You must develop the flexibility to use all three styles; further, you must develop the judgment to choose the style that best meets the situation and the needs of the team member. In the end, however, you are still overall responsible for the project outcome.

Another very important issue in leadership when defining your role, your ability to enforce standards, and or how you will influence and enforce standards is the issue of Authority and Responsibility - So let's look at this now.

Lead8Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014Lead6Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Power and authority are often discussed as though they go hand in hand. Authority comes from people above you, perhaps by delegation, whereas power comes from people below you. You can have authority without power or power without authority. Your formal authority as a project manager comes from your position as given you by your superiors and the agreed upon project charter. The project manager's authority should be broad enough to cover all possible aspects of the project. This is an area where you must gain a clear understanding from your boss as to where your authority begins and ends. Failure to do so can result in poor communications, misunderstandings, poor working relationships across authority lines, and confusion and frustration for the customer as well as the project team. This in turn will have a detrimental impact on any power you have or had. The bottom line here is that Authority is given and power is earned or built.

Authority and Power (Project Management Institute, 1990): Formal authority, Reward power, Penalty power, Expert power and Referent power.

With formal authority, which is sometimes considered a form of "legitimate power," you do gain some support by the team based on the official position of empowerment. However, the power to influence behavior is another animal: often referred to as Reward, Penalty, Expert and Referent powers are the "I'll do it because of what you may do too me, what you can do for me, or I know you know more than I do type powers.  "Which of these are positions dependent in nature, as in based on the duty position or job title you hold?" They are Formal, Reward, and Penalty powers. Expert and Referent powers are based more on who you are as an individual and what you represent in values, professionalism and goals versus what you can do too or for some one.

In reward power there is an expectation or belief that the leader can provide access to information, money, promotion, inclusion, camaraderie, security, opportunity so on and so on. Its power based on gaining something of value. There is usually an assumption of equality, fairness, giving and taking and an exchange of work for something of value. This, however, is not a team building power but an individualism oriented power.

Penalty power, also called the big-stick approach, is the ability to gain support because of the fear of punishment either directly or indirectly. This power is reactive and temporary - it imposes a psychological and emotional burden on both the leader and the follower. This is a last resort tool best saved for changing or dealing with serious behavioral problems.

Professional leadership coach and author, Stephen Covey warns that a person who relies on this coercive power runs the constant threat of being ousted from power. There was a publicized example of a disgruntled airline clerk, who, feeling that he was unjustly manipulated, deftly wiped out the flight schedules stored in computer memories the night before he quit. The cost of forced compliance was over a million dollars and thousands of work hours lost, with an enormous negative backlash from unhappy customers.

Expert Power - the power of knowledge, the ability to gain support because of the knowledge, expertise, and or talent you have. Think of someone that you consider as being an expert in some field, a field that you yourself don't share that same level of skill, this someone is usually the person you or others go to for help, guidance, mentoring, and assistance, advice so on and so forth. So being the most knowledgeable person on a project is a plus. This is a power you can build by gaining or improving your skills in a particular area.

Referent - the power of personality, charisma, beliefs, trust, respect, and or common goals. Referent power is the most, what I call real power because, as we've said before, power comes from below not above. It is the mark of quality, distinction, and excellence in all relationships. It is based on honor, with the leader honoring the followers and the followers choosing to contribute because the leader is also honored. The hallmark of referent power is sustained, proactive influence. The power is because it is not dependent on whether or not something desirable or undesirable happens to the follower. Referent power is created when the values of the followers and the values of the leader overlap. Referent power is not forced - it is invited. It's built on trust, respect, common goals and ethical behavior. These leaders are followed because others WANT to follow them, Want to believe in them and want to do what the leaders wants. This is not blind faith, mindless obedience, or robotic servitude: this is knowledgeable, wholehearted, uninhibited commitment.

Leaders make choices on a power platform of penalty, reward, expert, or referent based on our history, experience, personality, time, skills and do on. It's easy to jump into a penalty or reward power position but these will not develop the team as a cohesive group with a common mutually supporting purpose. Even expert power alone is not going to give you a cohesive team. It will help you develop a more referent - power base and it is a good starting position because it is positive in nature and tends to help build respect. However, referent power is your real goal and it takes time. Trust and respect in relationships, which is the foundation of referent power, cannot be fabricated ad-hoc. Sincerity cannot be faked for long. Eventually leaders reveal themselves and what a leader is, beyond what the leader can do to or for followers, ultimately determines the depth of the real power he or she has.

Because Project Managers generally have very limited authority, their individual leadership skill must be developed with as much reward, expert and referent power as possible. Line managers have direct control over those assigned under them and therefore have the potential of building all five authority and power tools.

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:

Lead9Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

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.
  • Informal Leaders: 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

Lead10Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

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.
  • Yes-Man Dilemma: Another potential for ethical dilemma includes 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

Lead11Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014
  • 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.

Final Word

The objective in this 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?