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Five Keys for a Project Manager's Leadership Makeover : Page 2

Create a brand for yourself, have vision, know your team, make a decision, and communicate out: do that and you're a leader.


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Becoming a Visionary Planner
Leadership commands a clear vision and high-level plan of action to execute the vision. It is the leader who is accountable for the vision, and the high level plan, and the team who is responsible for the detailed execution of the plan.

Leadership is exhibited when a project manager:

  • Evangelizes the vision – the project scope, objectives, and the benefits to its stakeholders (including customers) and the plan to achieve this.
  • Stewards the project and plants ownership in the hands of team individuals to translate thought into action. An anagram play on the word ‘own’ yields ‘won.’
  • Empowers the team and supports them to maintain this individual ownership of their contribution to the project by removing obstacles from their path and setting them up for success.
Becoming a visionary planner enables the project manager to lead by assuming the role of the evangelist and a steward who steers his team to morph the vision into a tangible reality, per plan.

Knowing Your Team
A leader needs to know his pack, their sentiments, their strengths, their capabilities and potential, their alignment index vis-à-vis the objectives of the group, and work at constantly ensuring that this alignment is maintained.



Before a new idea is to manifest, it is a good leader who pre-empts the actual execution of the initiative, by distilling the impacted audience into natural allies, critical thinkers, high performers, skeptics, rabble rousers, fence-sitters, et al. It is also a mature leader who distills thoughts from these audiences and creates an environment for the evolution of hybrid thought, to propel a faster realization of common goals.

For a project manager, having a stakeholder list is part of the job, knowing your stakeholders and managing them successfully to achieve desired goals is a key learning here.

You show leadership when you take the base need of a stakeholder list to another dimension by:

  • Showing initiative in being a strategic networker to understand their area of expertise, their opinions, and stances on areas of mutual interest.
  • Understanding who has the power to make decisions in event of conflict and ambiguities, as many times a project manager does not have direct management responsibility over a team.
  • Recognizing that your team is your reservoir of strength and tailoring your behavior towards them to draw them out; to know and understand their point of view.
By really knowing your team, you can tap into a knowledge base that enables you to connect people and thoughts, seed new ideas more effectively, and reduce ramp-up time from buy-in to execution.

Making Informed and Fact-Based Decisions
A good leader seeks counsel from experts in the group before making an informed decision. Does that diminish the worth of a leader? Not at all! Bringing the group together and asking their opinion creates a sense of ownership of the problem, enhances group value, such that stakeholders feel their thoughts and ideas matter and they have contributed towards the solution of a problem.

Project managers show leadership when they:

  • Exhibit behavior patterns to drive to consensus building
  • Facilitate the team mind share to drive to a decision that has stakeholder buy-in due to their collective involvement
Making informed and fact-based decisions strip the emotion from the action and secure buy-in without wastage of time, due to pre-emptive group discussion.

Communicating Effectively
Communicating effectively can connect the hearts and minds of the team and turn a project manager into a leader. An effective leader understands the power of the word and invests her time in learning the art of communication to reach into the hearts of the masses and evoke positive response to her vision and direction. Here are some examples of good communication:

  • Constant communication that re-affirms goals and thought rationale triggers the collective team conscious and produces desired actions.
  • Great leaders understand the power of effective listening and use gaps of silences in communication to elicit responses from or catalyze conversations with their teams.
  • The power of good timing lends a further effectiveness to communication and is used by leaders to create a powerful agent for change.
A seasoned project manager uses the communication plan to effectively disperse and solicit communication, to and from the project team. Leadership rears its head when a project manager:
  • Walks through the office floor to casually initiate conversation in an informal manner to get a pulse on how the team is really doing.
  • Subconsciously registers individual body language and nuances in conversations and uses effective communication techniques by asking open ended questions that prompt detail responses from the individual.
  • Establishes personal credibility by displaying true interest and concern in the content of the conversation and appropriately addressing conflict situations.
  • Effectively uses composure in a volatile conversation and sticks to facts rather than reacting to emotion.
  • Displaying empathy rather than sympathy for situations where an individual is rationalizing failure to deliver and guiding the individual back to the path of delivery, again, by asking questions to elicit appropriate responses.
Lead your team like a good conductor, and you’ll see marked improvements in overall quality, production, and morale.


Alpana Prabhu bridges business and technology using her core skills of project and program management across multiple business domains. She is currently Director, Global Partner Infrastructure, Global Channel Office at Symantec and is backed by nearly 20 years of work experience.
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