Leadership … a few comments

West PointMy last role at Intel was leading a leadership development effort for a large group in the IT organization. I learned a lot about leadership, its development, and what it takes for such a development effort to succeed in an organization (not easy). As I surfed our blog site, I looked for leadership articles and was not able to find any that address a few key concepts that I think are critical for all leaders and, in our case, project managers. (This blog was first published on 28 March 2008 at http://svprojectmanagement.com/). As a West Point graduate, leadership has been something I’ve always used, sometimes unconsciously. After four years at the Academy learning how to lead, the habits are ingrained and come to me easily. But that is not the case for many who had not had such an opportunity. So I figured I would capture a few ideas that some of you may find useful. Send me a note at jose.solera@gmail.com if you would like to discuss these ideas more or post a response here.

  1. Leadership presence – how do people see you? This is probably the number one attribute an effective leader must cultivate. We all get it when such a leader walks into a meeting but, how does s/he do it? It starts with your physical presence, everything from your appearance (it doesn’t mean you have to dress up, though, or look like a model) to how you walk (“walk with a purpose!” is what we were told at West Point.) Walk energized, communicating that you are going somewhere. It also includes how confident you are (even if you have your doubts) and the all-important command voice. Not that you have to yell but you must be heard and, when appropriate, speak in such a manner that people instinctively get it that you are in charge. Speaking from your diaphragm provides the power. Projecting your voice to where you want it (typically the back of the room) makes sure that everyone hears you.
  2. Do you know yourself? What do you want? Why are you leading? You must clarify your role (see David Schmaltz’s The Blind Men and the Elephant: Mastering Project Work chapter 3 for a great discussion on why knowing what you want is important.)
  3. Know your limitations and compensate for them. If you are lucky enough to have someone in the team who loves to do what you hate, have him/her do it. Or find other ways to compensate. I don’t enjoy detailed paperwork (bureaucracy!) so I have my overall BA manage a lot of what the methodology police want to see. I’m happy and she does a great job of it.
  4. Do you know your people? What makes them tick? What do they want? How can you adapt your project to give them what they want? Again, see Schmaltz’s book.
  5. Do your people know what you want? Can they act within that guidance if they can’t get a hold of you or, even better, even if they can? What’s your intent?
  6. Similarly, is your communication to all parties clear? Do you get your message across? Are your presentations to the point and convincing?

There are many other views of leadership and models to go along with them. The above just touches on some concepts I think are key. What do you think?

Jose Solera, MBA, PMP

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