Leadership Principles for Running Successful Projects

Aug 1, 2019 | Project Management

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Photographer: CoWomen | Source: Unsplash

Most projects are group activities that require different people to come together and coordinate activities for organizational improvement. Projects require a combination of talent from different team members, overcoming each others’ weaknesses and complementing strengths where necessary.

The project manager lies at the center of this activity. They are responsible for ensuring that there is cooperation between different team members, direct project activities, and control resources. Project managers must also act as intermediaries and inspire the team to do their best.

In order to perform well, project managers need to have certain leadership principles that guide their action and interactions with team members. Some of the most important principles required of a project leader include the ones discussed below.

Setting Relatable Goals and Objectives

Breaking Ice
Photographer: Robert Baker | Source: Unsplash

Project leaders must be capable of setting goals and forecasting project requirements in an easy and relatable manner. They should have a keen insight into the project members’ abilities for achieving these goals and explain the requirements in plain and easy terms.

The manager should break down the project into small, actionable parts and determine the time required for completing each task. Whether the project goal is to create a website, improve an existing program or construct something physical, the goals will not be achieved if the team members cannot see how their role fits into it.

Delegation with Authority

Many people find it difficult to relinquish authority or give their subordinates complete freedom to accomplish a required task based on the subordinate’s judgment. This can often create hurdles for successful completion of the project.

You cannot really hold someone responsible for the failure of a project activity if you did not give them complete authority to complete it as they will. If you ask a project member to complete a task in a very specific manner with no room for improvisation, and they fail, you have only yourself to blame.

Almost every project is unique and there is always room for making adjustments. When you delegate authority to a team member, give them the freedom to pursue the task according to their best judgment. This is particularly useful if you won’t be available for guidance when important decisions need to be made.

Hold Project Members Accountable

This relates to the delegation of authority and resource allocation. When passing on authority and resources to team members, the project manager must also let them know how they will be held accountable for their performance.

The team member’s activities must be monitored periodically and there should be a reporting mechanism that allows the project manager to review how they are doing. Good performance should be rewarded while bad or suboptimal performance should be punished.

One reason for the failure of projects is that managers become too lax in their disciplinary actions. They do not hold team members accountable out of fear of antagonizing people.

Fair and Equal Treatment

Photographer: Tim Mossholder | Source: Unsplash

While it can be difficult to be purely objective at all time, a project leader must have a fair and consistent system of rewards and punishments. If employee A and B both perform well on the project, the manager must be equally appreciative instead of playing favorites and rewarding one team member more at the expense of another.

Fair treatment also applies to punishments. If one project member gets a harsh or critical feedback on failing a given task and the other is just given a slap on the wrist, then this could create a feeling of resentment in the employees that are being treated unfairly.

Building Mutual Trust

Project managers, especially those who are very capable, can often get too involved in specific project activities. This leads to micromanagement of the project. Generally, this occurs when the project leader is under pressure and there are deadlines that have to be met.

Micromanagement can create a feeling of disrespect in the project members. They might feel that they are not trusted or considered less skilled. This can undermine the trust factor at the workplace and some employees can feel overly scrutinized for their actions.

Ironically, this tends to happen more for project leaders who are very good at certain technical activities themselves compared to managers that are not as technically proficient. The project manager must realize that their role is to lead the project and get work done through their team rather than picking up a wrench and getting hands down into the technical work themselves.

If a team member asks for guidance or training on something, then that is an exception. But in most cases, the project manager must act as an overseeing authority.

Avoid Prejudice and Support Diversity

Project leaders must view their team members with an open mind before passing judgment on their skill levels or competencies. Instead of making quick assumptions, the project leader must engage in a one-on-one conversation and get a practical demonstration of the member’s abilities.

Most people are gifted in one way or another and determining the potential of each team member lies at the heart of completing projects effectively.

Another quality necessary for project leaders is to support diversity at their workplace. Most projects require a diverse set of skills and competencies. If all of your team members are skilled in only one area then you will struggle in the project phase where a different set of skills is required, even when you do very well on the activity that everyone is good at.

Commitment to the Project Goal

Last but not least, the project leader must be committed to the project goals and passionate about the work. When the manager is actually interested in the project deliverables, they are more likely to put in the extra effort and make it a success.

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