Leadership: Is it easy to identify good leaders?

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Eleri Evans and Russel Jamieson from the APM People SIG led an evening on Leadership: is it easy to identify leaders? to an inaugural joint meeting with our Northern Ireland branch and members of the Northern Ireland Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) in Belfast.

The APM Body of Knowledge 6th edition definition of Leadership and section BC03 - Leadership from the APM Competence Framework provided the foundation upon which the event developed.

This 'taster session' of a longer half or full day session on the topic still saw the attendees engaged throughout even though it was a relatively new style for the NI-ICE members who are much more used to technical presentations.

Discussions drew out various challenges that lie in front of leaders including human nature, inconsistent levels of support and interest from above & below, new and novel products & methods as well as customers and suppliers. Political (with both a capital 'P' and a lower case 'P') agendas were also aired as a huge challenge.

We agreed upon the need for clarity in everyone knowing who can make decisions, how and when to escalate as well as a willingness to accept decisions once made.

In trying to identify what a good P3M leader might look like all present were challenged to physically demonstrate their feelings as they were asked to choose between paired characteristics by:

  • Strongly Agreeing
  • Leaning Towards
  • Sitting on the Fence

Examples were Strategic v Tactical, Supportive v Encouraging, Direct v Forthright and Intuitive v Reasoned. All quickly got into the groove especially once we removed the option for 'sitting on the fence'.

Utilising the output of everyone's involvement we fed the results into the 'super-computer which (didn't really) assessed and drew a diagram of what a good leader looks like. No-one present owned up to recognising the end product despite agreeing to its constitution!

In discussion we surmised some of the key 'needs' and 'musts' to be a successful leader and agreed that it was not possible to have one leader who everything about everything.

Some time was spent looking at the rational and unconscious motivations behind followers respecting that they have their own identity. 

Taking some more time to be interactive we looked at a scenario from Eleri around a promise 'from above' to the client of a guaranteed delivery date whereas the project manager this could not be met under current circumstances and would result in late delivery. The senior refused to go back to the client. What would you do here?

We took a look at the five domains of emotional intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman, namely:

  • Knowing your emotions
  • Managing your own emotions
  • Motivating yourself
  • Recognising and understanding other people's emotions
  • Managing relationships

These were spoken about before looking at Personal Resilience as defined by the American Psychological Association. Homework was set here for people to reflect personally on a series of questions (in slide deck).


If you are interested in possibly getting involved with the APM People SIG please drop us a mail at peoplesig@apm.org.uk and we will set up a call or meet to discuss options with you.

Posted on 26th Oct 2015
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