I’ve spoken in previous articles about the value of good leadership on projects and that to be a good project manager, you need to be an effective leader. Well what makes up a good leader? Good leadership comes from attitude, experience, wisdom and knowledge – in that order of importance.
I rank this as the top ingredient of a good leader. Leaders lead, they don’t do – which means they rely on a team of individuals to carry the load. They need to inspire and cultivate motivation in their teams. Attitude – the very nature by which we approach our work – is a key factor in building a great leader, and subsequently great teams. Leaders need to display an attitude of positivity and confidence that the team will ultimately look to and most times take on themselves. The first step to building high-performing teams is to inspire the right attitudes to get the job done.
Nothing builds (or reveals) character like adversity. This is something that is only gained over time and experience. Having someone in a leadership position who has been “in the trenches” so to speak can draw on those experiences to help team members through similar situations, hopefully steering clear of the more negative results. Having a seasoned leader who boasts that level of experience not only allows them to share their experiences with their team members but also provides a solid foundation for basing good decision making.
Wisdom is something I consider to be separate from knowledge. Wisdom is what we gain through life experience. It’s the intangibles that instill themselves into our personalities that build up over time. Wisdom helps shape how we view the world and allows us to base our decisions not only on hard facts but also our past experiences. Being a better leader means being able to rely on that wisdom to guide our decision making process and how we navigate through our projects.
Knowledge is what I consider to be hard facts. Do you understand the technical make-up of what it is you’re working on? For a project manager, this would be a typical set of steps that need to be done in order to manage a project. Going through the project initiation, writing the charter, facilitating meetings, charting a plan, etc. These are not simple items but I think it’s important to separate knowledge from wisdom. Knowledge allows us to perform our work to our best ability but wisdom lets us make the right decisions around how we conduct our work. Leaders rely on their knowledge (and also knowing what they don’t know) to help determine how their teams will function.
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some are born, some are molded over time. One common thread that I’ve seen through my career is that leaders in some way or another all demonstrate these four traits. Being a leader is about responsibility and accountability over everything else.