Project leadership encompasses planning, scheduling and execution talents in face-to-face and virtual team environments. Successful project leadership combines the expertise of multiple members brought together to get the job done. In today’s competitive industry marketplace, it focuses on people rather than the management of strategic tasks. 

It takes the growth and development of hard and soft skills, as well as a desire and aptitude for both management and leadership for anyone considering directing a tactical undertaking. Lately, leadership is a new passion. Part science and art, anyone leading a project will tell you that it is an exploration into your style, values, and commitment. 

According to Susanne Madsen, “Leaders ask a lot of questions. They do not just tell you what to do like a manager does. And because leaders are so interested in people and the individual, they have a high amount of emotional intelligence.”

Leadership approaches 

How the individual approaches leadership is part of the learned experience and the person’s personality.  There are reactive people-leadership, reactive task management, proactive people-leadership and proactive task management. Each approach will set the tone and manner in achieving the project’s goals.

 Most people who are attracted to leadership roles and responsibilities demonstrate a mixture of characteristics.  The individual who concentrates on a proactive leadership style is the most successful in both active management and soft people skills. The project leadership matrix is a tool that can help identify your leanings for your personal growth. 

The Servant Leader

While leaders do wield power and authority, the best leaders come to the table humble and modest, with a servant mindset. There are consistent traits that are tracked in successful leaders. These include:

  • Creation of solutions, not drama
  • Self-aware, insightful and mindful of others
  • Complete with an internal and external risk versus benefit analysis of decisions
  • Centered and grounded in mind, body and spirit
  • Information gatherer, logical and accomplish the outcomes
  • Generates excitement, motivation, perseverance and fun
  • Shapes teams in a consistent, unified and interconnected group

Adapted to fit the project and the personalities of the group, these learned traits are the foundational element to project success. Leaders have acquired the dexterity to pivot. They realized that they oversee tangible people, not intangible tasks. 

People dimensions

People are not robots. They require the distinction of respect and value for what they have accomplished and brought them to your team. As a leader, it is critical to mentor, empower and inspire rather than demand and threaten. Communication is necessary to generate buy-in, innovation, and speak to their emotional core. 

Some leaders are uncomfortable with the soft skill, psychological aspect of leadership. However, it is real and spells the difference between average leadership and excellence.  Team morale is as important a milestone as any schedule or report. It is fragile and, if lost, threatens the project initiatives. 

Successful leadership is studied, monitored, tracked and most importantly, it is reproducible. Using a book or following a policy and procedures manual will not make a good leader. Leadership is a growing process inside the individual who chooses to make a passage. The best part is positively impacting outcomes that can last a lifetime.