Leadership skills are practiced when we step forward and make decisions about how something should be done or where it is going. In project management, this is most likely going to be with your project team, or at least a certain section of it.
Knowing how to practice leadership skills goes beyond just decision-making however, i.e. the simple choice of doing one thing or another, leadership skills are also necessary for:
- Building your team’s productive capacity
- Helping them to achieve at their highest level
- Foreseeing and dealing with crises
- Promoting the project to other stakeholders and getting buy-in
- Creating a positive and productive work atmosphere
- Visualizing the long-term destination of the project
All of these leadership skills are lauded and craved in equal measure and can take a long time to build up. For modern project managers, the emphasis is often on avoiding risk, rather than necessarily seeking to change things, even if you feel it will be better for the project. Sticking one’s neck out and getting it wrong can be more detrimental to a career than the benefits of getting it right.
So, how can a PM realistically work on improving their leadership skills? What changes can be made that won’t rock the boat too much but will improve their abilities as a leader and provide them with a long-term pathway to successful leadership? Well, here are some of the best ways to do just that.
How to Practice Leadership Skills
- Be confident with your decision-making
Confidence breeds respect as a leader but having that confidence in the first place is not all that easy, it’s natural and positive to question yourself, as Charles Bukowski said: “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” One way to improve your surety in the decision you’re taking is to have as many of the facts as possible, the better your information, the more informed your choices will be.
- Show your team you believe in their potential
For employees to reach greater heights in terms of their contribution, they need to be shown how they can do that and supported in getting there. As a leader, this means engaging with them on a one-to-one level to see where they want to get to and what the best path is for them to get there.
- Challenge yourself and those around you
You should always be leading by example, whatever that may be. If you want a high-paced workspace then that’s what you should present, if you prefer a more considered and relaxed team, then you can’t be rushing around and hectic. In this sense, the challenge that you need to put to yourself and the rest of the team is to find the areas that are most important to the project and the team and to work on ways to incrementally improve them.
- Communicate clearly
Getting your message across succinctly and without confusion is vital. This is not just in terms of direction and delegation but also with regards to the project’s direction. For this, many project managers use project management software, such as Clarizen, which can give greater clarity and transparency to the project as a whole and each individual’s role within it.
- Maintain positivity and a belief in success
When disasters strike, it can be easy to get caught up in an office-wide mourning period for a project that’s supposedly lost. As a leader, it is up to you to set the tone, and that should be that it’s not over till it’s over. Gather together a crisis brainstorming session to uncover solutions or to discover what can potentially be salvaged from the project.