Effective leaders are rare. They are created through the trials and tribulations of managing or working with people in a variety of settings. Most good leaders have had their fair share of hard knocks that awakened them to the greater potential within their scope of influence. Effective leaders are excellent communicators, able to speak the many languages of the individuals within the groups they lead. Oftentimes the individual perspectives may appear different simply from the type of language they use. A good leader pays attention to the facts and then makes decisions based on objective analysis of those facts, which is not to say that humanitarian factors succumb to the bottom line.
Effective leaders naturally motivate people from their actions, which include showing respect, listening, reflecting, and negotiating through conflict. Efficient leaders learn the strengths and weaknesses of their subordinates and cohorts and utilize group dynamics. Leaders encourage and empower people to achieve success rather than place blame. Leaders have solid vision and unshakeable persistence in achieving a goal. Serendipity follows them everywhere as if their environments are alive and vibrant with creative energy just waiting for an opportunity to manifest a synchronicity.. Their efforts are empowered by their ability to manage and organize both activities and time in their busy schedules.
A good leader is courageous, able to make decisions without hesitation, and maintains integrity of word and deed. Dependability is also a key trait for a leader must always be there for their group. Sound judgment and sensibility are also features of a leader, with loyalty, enthusiasm, endurance, and initiative rounding out the ever-expanding list. These characteristics manifest in a variety of presentations and situations, especially for project managers in process.
Project Manager Effectiveness
Project managers are leaders of small and large groups destined to complete a strategic project plan. Leadership characteristics described above can make or break a team. In all successful project fulfillments, it is the leadership of the project manager that determines the type of success for the project’s members. The most successful accomplishments are met with a sense of fun and reward when goals and objectives are met, all facilitated by the project manager’s leadership. “Persistent leadership is required to make partnering work. Project managers must “walk the talk” and consistently display a collaborative response to problems. Similarly, top management must consistently and visibly champion the principles of openness, trust, and teamwork.” (Gray and Larson, 2001, p. 373)
There is also an emerging element in project management. It was first introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience. (Harper and Row, 1990). He states that, “Instead of accepting the unity of purpose provided by genetic instructions or by the rules of society, the challenge for us is to create harmony based on reason and choice.” This reason and choice are the foundations of project management.
People are more productive when they have optimal experience, a sense of flow to their personal and professional lives. Mr. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” This is the foundation for the highest productivity in any organization.
Project managers of today are successful due to their interpersonal relationships with everyone associated with the project. Providing an environment noted by Gray and Larson means that to incorporate the concepts and a delivery mechanism of optimal performance, Flow has to be incorporated within the foundation of the strategic plan. The attention given to this process empowers the leadership skills of each member of the team. Empowered leaders facilitate action and results, often better than anticipated.
Leadership styles that are successful in one industry may not garner the same results in another. The integrity of James Burke, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, led the company out of a potential disaster when Tylenol’s tampering took place. Instead of following the recommendations of both the FBI and the Food and Drug Association, they recalled the entire supply on the market, even replacing customers’ capsule bottles with tablets. On the other hand, had he been faced with the knowledge that fossil fuel use is polluting air, ground, and waters of the world, would he have recalled the oil?
More often than not in the 80s, CEOs’ management styles were often tailored to their particular industry. Defense contractors had traditionally been led by threat rather than reward; demanding and commanding compliance and performance. Managing by threat creates an atmosphere of mistrust, which is diametrically opposed to current management philosophy. Many companies in this industry now have initiated a variety of sensitivity programs to bolster moral and productivity.
Inspired stakeholder involvement creates opportunity for evolutionary leaps in a learning organization, across the gamut of organizational type or industry.
Code of Ethics
The Project Manager Code of Ethics described in the text begins with:
“Project Management Professionals, in the pursuit of their profession, affect the quality of life for all people in our society. Therefore, it is vital that Project Management Professionals conduct their work in an ethical manner to earn and maintain the confidence of team members, colleagues, employees, clients, and the public.” (Gray and Larson, 2001, p. 550)
The Articles within the Code of Ethics describe the optimal practices of human accountability, creativity, and responsibility. With minor nomenclature changes, it could very well read like the articles for developing any kind of organizational foundation. Leaders, true leaders, exemplify these Articles in their daily living. It is the following of the precepts set forth in these Articles that make them the recognized leaders within the organizations they serve, be it a corporation or community.
In Waking Up – Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential (1986), Dr. Charles Tart postulates our will is largely a mechanical reaction based on conditioning, intelligence is severely limited compared to what it could be, and there is no true self controlling life from a state of genuine self-consciousness. This discovery, not only by Dr. Tart, is changing the way personal and professional lives are working. The attitude of project management reflects this change. The qualities of leadership and project management demonstrate the symbiosis of creating results in life or in industry. There is little difference between the two in our evolving society.
In more practical applications, communities and municipalities depend on these best practices for survival now. For instance, AzDOT partnering meetings engage every stakeholder to create a partnering agreement mission statement with goals for the project team [stakeholders], a code of ethics, an issue resolution plan for jobsite activity and an issue resolution plan for all known or potential issues. The most effective leaders engage the spirit of partnering, create trust relationships with subcontractors by being trustworthy and more often than not bring in projects ahead of schedule and below budget from value engineering addendums. This leadership choice, the partnering meetings, also reduced lawsuits by over 800%. This practice begs inclusion in every commercial and/or community project, especially now.
This writer proposes that a true leader is priceless. Demonstrating the qualities of leadership not only wins friends and influences people; it sets the standard of behavior within an organization. The writer’s perspective of a true leader is one who leads people by example through using a synergy of charisma, tact and skill in handling challenges, concern for the rights and privileges of others and care for the positive impact on people and planet within the scope of their leadership and beyond.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience, New York, NY: Harper and Row Publishing.
Gray, Clifford F.; Larson, Erik W., Project Management – The Managerial Process, Copyright © 2001 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Tart, Dr. Charles (1986), Waking Up – Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential, Copyright © 1986 by The Institute of Noetic Sciences
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