What Kind of Leader Are You?
“Uh-oh, here he comes … let's go!” If this is the response you overhear from team members when you approach, there's something wrong with your leadership style. While you don't need to be everyone's pal, you do want the team to feel comfortable around you and seek you out with problems or questions. If you are a leader who is also part of the team, you need to have a sense of camaraderie. If you are busy managing the team and they are doing the actual hands-on work, let them know that you are counting on them and have confidence and faith that they can do the job. Refer to it as “our project,” not “my project.”
To determine what kind of leader you are, consider which of the following leadership styles best describes you:
Are you a taskmaster? Are you focused solely on production?
Are you a people person? Do you focus on communication between team members and take a consensus to get decisions made?
Are you Pavlovian? Do you believe in behavior modification? If they do the work, will they be rewarded as they go?
Are you a micromanager? Do you look over everyone's shoulder?
Are you missing in action? Do you start and end the project, but basically disappear for the duration of the process?
Most likely, you will combine aspects of the first three leadership styles on the list, while trying not to fall into the last two categories. Managing tasks, working well with people, and providing rewards for a job well done are all part of being a good leader. The project and the circumstances surrounding it, however, will dictate your primary style. Don't be surprised if you need to use a little of each approach for different situations. Often, project managers, while focusing on the task in hand, will have to deal with difficult personalities and even stroke some egos to encourage particular individuals.
To be both a manager and a leader, you need to combine the skills of planning, implementing a schedule, and monitoring progress along with effectively delegating, communicating, and listening to other people. Just as being knowledgeable does not make someone a good teacher, management skills and MBA credits don't automatically make you a good leader.
Be flexible enough to switch gears when necessary. Let the nature of the project, the scope, the time frame, the progress of the project, and the people determine which style of leadership you'll use on which day.
Consider the following scenarios. Each situation requires the project leader to tap into different styles in order to keep the project focused and moving forward. While all leaders will have a preferred style (one that seems most natural to them), the best leaders are able to adapt and use each style when necessary.
A crisis arises — things are blown way off course! Take control, make unilateral decisions, and get the ship back on course; be task oriented.
Morale is declining — the campers are not happy! Use your people skills, get everyone involved, take a consensus before making a move, ask for people's opinions, and make nice until the team is happy again.
Many questions are left unanswered — the team just doesn't know what to do next! If the problems are in the system or revolve around aspects of the project itself, then you may need to take a more analytical approach and hunt and gather information and materials. Have your team work together to seek and find what needs to be learned. Turn all attention inward, and get the structure of the project back on track, then return to project business as usual.