There’s much discussion in project management training circles about leadership. There are exercises meant to develop leadership skills and behaviors and stacks of literature discussing project management methodologies and how those practices relate to leadership. Leadership is so important to project management for one simple reason: Project management is a lot more than managing projects.
Project Managers have to cultivate strong teams, and this requires a project manager with excellent leadership skills and behaviors that enable your team to flourish and work to their maximum ability. So, what are the most effective leadership behaviors and skills?
First and foremost, develop a team culture that fosters openness, responsiveness and communication. This allows a project manager to encourage those team traits they find particularly valuable. For me, that’s commitment, honesty, teamwork and good judgement. But many of these behaviors can’t be encouraged unless you, as the project manager, create an environment where your team feels comfortable and confident communicating with you.
There are simple things you can do to create this culture, from regularly checking in with your team members outside of formal meetings to celebrating successes, no matter how small.
This kind of environment also cultivates trust, which is essential to effective leadership. You must trust that your team members will deliver on verbal commitments and will respond promptly to requests. But this isn’t a one-way street.
One of the best ways to encourage beneficial behaviors is for the project manager to model desired behaviors. If you don’t follow through on commitments, communicate openly and honestly, respond promptly and meet deadlines your team won’t either. As a leader, you create the norm. Be aware of what you’re modeling.
Positive environment is nothing without structure. Every team member should be clear on the project timeline and goals, knowing their roles and responsibilities. This should all be contained in a document that you could also use to formally track each team member’s performance. Formal reviews, when executed in a positive manner, are a powerful motivating tool and help develop accountability.
This highlights the importance of clear communication. Successful projects have clear, centralized communication. Though there’s a plethora of ways to communicate these days (smart phones, emails, Facebook, video conferencing), having one place where project updates and notes are kept is essential. A system like BaseCamp works well.
Make sure that you acknowledge and celebrate progress and success. Everyone benefits from a little encouragement. Not only will positive feedback help create a positive environment, but it will also motivate your team and keep them moving forward.
Leadership skills are really put to the test when a project goes off track. But if you’ve put in the time and energy creating a positive environment, opening channels of clear communication, modeling integrity and reliability, you’ll find that project problems are a lot easier to manage. The trust shared between you and your team will make pinpointing project pitfalls, making adjustments and overcoming any obstacle that much easier.