In order to learn about effective leadership in the workplace, you must first understand the differences between leadership and management.
When I was a Systems Engineer in 2007, I knew that I wanted to become a manager one day. My mentor told me that I should seek to become a leader first, and that many people become managers, but few become leaders.
Within this article I will discuss three tenants of leadership, which differentiate it from management, and if implemented, will help any Project/Program Manager (PM) become an effective leader in the workplace.
1. Become a Change Champion
Change Management is a changeling and inevitable part of any PMs job. It can be intimidating both for you as a leader and for your team members who may fear what is to come, and try to hold on to the way things are or always have been.
While leading your team through change, it’s helpful to:
- Anticipate problems before they arise – manage risk. Has your team been operating a certain way for 20+ years, and now you are attempting to introduce a new way of operating? Obvious red flags such as this present opportunities to be proactive and forthcoming about expected benefits after the change is implemented.
- Advocate for continuous process improvement – if your team learns to anticipate change on a consistent basis, then they will gradually become more open to the idea, and more trusting of you as a leader, once they see that you have implemented changes (big or small) successfully the past.
- Communicate through any resistance to change – explain the motivating factors behind the change, describe the future vision, and LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN to all stakeholders’ concerns
2. Drive for Results
PMs should proactively lead their team through the project life cycle by taking the following steps:
- Act on Lessons Learned – successes or failures of prior projects should not become “lessons observed and promptly forgotten.” Communicate with other managers and team members in order to learn through their experiences, avoid hurdles, and implement efficiencies.
- Set the priority – in a corporate environment, most team members are working on parallel efforts within a single project and often across multiple projects. It is important for you to communicate with your team members and with other managers in order to understand and align competing priorities so that each member of your team knows how to prioritize their time.
3. Create Alliances
How does an effective PM create alliances within the workplace?
- Leverage cross-functional alliances – it is quite easy for large project teams to form a silo and just focus on their area or phase of the project to the extent where they fail to communicate across disciplines unless it is completely unavoidable. This working style has the potential to create inefficiencies, and it is often up to the PM to serve as a conduit for cross-functional communication. Embrace this role, and form relationships across a variety of disciplines. This can serve as a useful mitigation of future communications challenges, because you can be assured that all stakeholders are engaged and actively communicating.
- Relationship Building – one way to form relationships with your team members is by paying attention to their individual needs. For example, understanding that a certain engineer’s family dynamic requires that she leaves early on Thursdays to pick her child up from school will allow you to proactively secure another resource to share the workload without impacting the schedule, while also showing the employee that you are attuned to her personal priorities.
Effective leadership begins with a solid foundation and consistently improves with time. Becoming a Change Champion, Driving for Results, and Creating Alliances are three tools that can expand your strategic toolbox and help you to become you a more effective leader.
Please feel free to share your experiences with transitioning from a manager to a leader, or any additional thoughts or questions that you may have.