Let’s do a quick exercise. Write down the top three traits that you think a successful project leader possesses. Now, write down the top three traits that an unsuccessful project leader possesses. Was it easier for you to come up with the negative traits? For most of us, it’s easier to recall the times we had a negative experience with a project leader. What if we could take those negative experiences and turn them into an opportunity to make ourselves better project leaders?
But first, to become an influential project leader, you must recognize your weaknesses and dedicate the time to continue to develop yourself.
Think back to that initial exercise. Did you write micromanager as one of the traits that make a project leader unsuccessful? This is an issue most people can relate to in some way or another. So, what if we flip micromanagement on its head and instead strive to be a macromanager. A macromanager, a term that Arun Singhal & Puja Bhatt reference in their book the 9 Habits of Project Leaders, is a person that is willing to delegate responsibility to their core team members. By delegating responsibility, you are creating a culture and a team of accountability. As a result, the team members not only feel a sense of individual responsibility but a sense of mutual responsibility to contribute to the success of the project.
- Enable authority on your team
Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” As a leader, it is not enough to delegate responsibility to your team, but it is also critical to give them decision-making authority. This helps team members’ transition from having a sense of responsibility to having a sense of ownership on their results. Additionally, by distributing the decision-making authority throughout the team, it improves the efficiency of the project which, in turn, has a positive impact on project execution.
However, the project leader needs to clearly define the level of authority each team member has on the different aspects of the project. A great tool to use to accomplish this is a RACI Matrix. This lists important project tasks and notes who is responsible, has authority and who needs to be consulted and informed. This is a great reference to use throughout the project to avoid any confusion on who has authority.
- Trust your team
One of the things a leader can struggle with at times is understanding that just because something is being done differently than how you would do it, it does not mean that it is being done the wrong way. If you step in every time this happens, the trust you built with that person will begin to decrease over time, as well as stifle creativity and innovation. Instead, offer guidance and support to your team members to build trust.
Try implementing these three tips and see how it creates a team of shared ownership and one of trust. When you do this, you are truly on your way to becoming an influential project leader.