At a recent event, someone asked me what were the key traits of conscious project leaders. It’s a tough question to answer as I'm always worried that people are looking to short cut the effort involved in becoming a great project manager. You really can’t do this.
Project management is often referred to as ‘the accidental profession’, yet there's nothing accidental about learning to lead, building teams and being technically good at what you do. This is what conscious project leaders do. They choose to be the difference.
Having given it some thought, there are 7 traits that are immediately recognisable in conscious project leaders. Traits that you don’t see in many other people responsible for projects. Traits that you remember and talk about.
Traits that you then expect of all project managers and are frequently disappointed.
1. They have vision
They know that to create a project that means something, they have to build a vision first. Create a statement of intent around what the future looks like once the project has been completed. They know that this provides clarity and excitement and allows the team to connect what they do on a daily basis, to the future of the organisation.
“A vision releases us from the weight and confusion of local problems and concerns, and allows us to see the long clear line.” – The Art of Possibility, Benjamin and Rosumand Stone Zander.
2. They ‘role model’ the right behaviours
They understand that it's behaviours that will make their leadership style memorable, both positively and negatively. They understand that to succeed they need to be kind, caring, thoughtful, proactive and courageous and that anger, aggression, deceit and selfishness will only undermine what they’re trying to achieve.
They know that consistently displaying positive behaviours will encourage a supportive and productive culture.
3. They know the team well
And I don't just mean their name and job title. They could get that by looking at LinkedIn. They take the time to understand each individual at the start of the project. Their experience, their personality, their family, the things they enjoy and the things they don’t.
They understand what it means to be empathetic and can recognise when things aren't right. They encourage, reward and recognise and won’t get down on you for being human.
4. They create teams of leaders
They understand that for projects to be delivered in line with stakeholder expectations, they can’t become the bottleneck for decisions. They know that only through creating a team of people that can readily accept responsibility, can they expect to succeed.
They don’t just explain tasks; they explain the behaviours, techniques and communication skills required to be successful. They mentor their team to be better versions of themselves in the name of progress.
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