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Seven steps from me to we in project leadership

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Leadership ideals are often portrayed as imposing figures leading from the front, dictating orders to voiceless subordinates but as the complexity of the project delivery environment changes, the methods to achieve success need to adapt and evolve. Making commands is no longer an effective way to lead a positive and coordinated project team that will work to their best ability.

Gordon MacKay, author of Evolving project leadership shares seven ways you can adapt your leadership style to make a positive change and atmosphere where people can work together better:

1. Adapt your style. Assertiveness has its limitations and alliances are much stronger when focused on engagement and empathy rather than command and domination. Teams follow leaders who inspire them more authentically than leaders who coerce them.

2. Learn from others. No longer is one single subject matter expert found at the centre. Decisions need to be made using multiple sources, making a command-and-control style of leadership inadequate.

3. Foster team delivery. Project leadership is about creating a team who can deliver. Demonstrating behaviours intended to realise and release the power of each individual team member’s potential is at the heart of project leadership.

4. Recognise opportunities for growth. Knowing and understanding your own strengths, weaknesses and motivation reduces blind spots and makes you an effective leader. Equally, seeing the team as individuals and knowing each of their strengths and weaknesses supports the  capacity for growth and ownership.

5. Create a common goal. Having the foresight to build rapport and effective engagement with others establishes a good foundation for the challenges that lie ahead and creates a collective unity around a common goal. Having a strong vision of what should be informs what needs to be done and how it is to be achieved.

6. Understand the ‘why’. Followers should be fully aware of what they need to do and, crucially, an understanding of why it needs to be done. With this whole picture view, they can then engage not just willingly, but knowingly, which will put them in an informed position to better adapt to changing conditions and be more resilient in the face of any changes.

7. Change the culture. Outdated stereotypes need to be challenged for the limitations they may bring. The leadership selection process must seek and value the evolving skills of leadership. Selection, assessment and development of leaders requires a change in culture and focus.

As project professionals, we not only deliver projects, but we encourage and enable success with the way we influence and lead our teams. The project profession is evolving, and we must evolve with it to empower the people around us. When we create an open dialogue to communicate with one another, we’ll grow and thrive which will make us better leaders, better managers and better project professionals.

You can find more information and detailed tips on project leadership in Gordon MacKay’s book, Evolving project leadership.

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