Project Leadership means…

You are leading the team to WIN — which broadly means realizing the objectives of your organization while maintaining the team’s sanity, morale and general good spirit. This requires a holistic approach and a strategic perspective.

It involves looking at the present and determining the steps needed to incrementally move the team closer to meeting its objectives.

This starts with having a clear vision and goals, then working to align the team with those goals. Every. Single. Day.

What does this look like?

Leadership embraces change​ — you have to constantly be asking yourself and the team:

  • What are we doing?
  • Is that the only way to do it?
  • Can we do this better?
  • Are these still the right objectives?

Keep questioning the status quo. Keep searching for tiny gains in productivity and work to find your team advantages where you can. Constantly re-evaluate the changing environment in pursuit of the vision. Play the long game, plan for the marathon and sprint only when necessary. Change is inevitable so be willing to adopt new processes, procedures, and roles if they will more efficiently and effectively help attain your objectives. Flexibility and adaptability are two characteristics of good leadership. Embrace them. Always keep the end in mind.

Leadership means the ability to motivate​ — understand the vision and goals you are driving towards. Be able to clearly tell the team the story of how their work on THIS project positively impacts your organization and the broader world. Make certain you buy into this effort as important and that you can authentically support getting the WORK DONE. Your ultimate goal as the lead of a project is providing daily inspiration and guidance so that your team will perform enthusiastically, confidently, and in a highly committed way. It implies delegating, empowering, coaching, building trust, handling adversity, fostering creativity, and facilitating an environment where people are capable of the doing THEIR BEST WORK. You only succeed through the actions of your team. Servant leadership works well here. But it is also important to remember you have been asked to lead, not follow.

Leadership involves communicating — ​this starts with active listening, checking for understanding and reading people in order to understand their messages ​and​ motives. It also means listening without bias and not hearing what you want to hear or expect to hear. Then after you understand and have validated that understanding, thinking about what it means and what you must do in order to realize the outcomes you now want given what you just learned. That may mean communicating laterally and vertically. Being open and honest at all times — that is, actively creating an atmosphere of trust, where hidden agendas and dishonesty have no place. All decisions and behaviors are of the highest ethical standards, to ensure credibility and trustworthiness up, down, and across the chain of command. No surprises and no secret agendas.

Leadership sometimes involves taking calculated risks​ — sometimes you have to take smart, calculated risks. They embrace ambiguity and complexity in a manner that fosters innovative ideas and solutions to achieve the vision. They are proactive, not reactive. They are paranoid, but not paralyzed. They consistently manage risks (DOWNSIDES) to enable smart risk taking in order to maximize the positive outcomes their teams can generate (UPSIDE). Put simply you can’t WIN if you don’t PLAY.

Leadership requires a constancy of purpose​ — keep the vision in the forefront of everyone’s mind by continually asking the question, “How will this help to achieve our goals as a team and the organization goals holistically?” Constantly asking that question of yourself and your team should result in a focused and disciplined results-oriented attitude which will enable you to adapt and align actions and processes.

Leadership means facilitating performance​ — this starts with correctly and consistently parsing reality for the team. Clearly stating what others don’t want to know, don’t want to see or are afraid to name. If we are going to miss a deadline you say that fact out loud so that everybody knows, then you get to work fixing the problems and issues. You also focus on building an atmosphere of trust and mutual support, emphasizing relational rather than hierarchical interactions and directing team energy toward achieving the vision. Thus, leadership means facilitating rather than impeding performance. Leaders create environments where people are able to do their best work. They actively seek out and remove obstacles to performance. They secure the resources a team needs to succeed.